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Archive for February 20th, 2012

“NAMA wishes to state that no effort was made by the paper in question to check the allegations being made with NAMA through its Press Office before the story was published and no opportunity was afforded the Agency to reject the allegations being made.” Extract from NAMA statement on 20th February, 2012.

It was John Drennan and Ronald Quinlan’s article in yesterday’s Sunday Independent which inspired the “10 things that NAMA is doing right” blogpost. The Independent’s article was headlined “Now NAMA almost loses Google jobs” and suggested that NAMA had jeopardised 230 new technology jobs in our country where there are 310,000 unemployed and 440,000 on the Live Register. A serious allegation indeed; the thing was that the article itself didn’t offer any detail on how NAMA had jeopardised any deal. The problem arose in August 2011 when the developer still had control of the property. The developer, the “Ford Cortina and three-bed semi”-averse David Agar gave a rare NAMA developer’s interview with the Sunday Independent two weeks ago, and it is plain he is “furious” at NAMA having foreclosed on his loans. Of course NAMA closely oversees its loans, so the developer would doubtless have needed to consult with NAMA on proposals, but it wasn’t clear from the article that delays in this oversight by NAMA had been an issue. And although Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan did confirm that he intervened in the matter, it seems the focus of his attention was the South Dublin County Council and there was no evidence in the article of the Minister acting to spur NAMA on.

I came away wondering what exactly NAMA had done wrong in this matter, based on the information in the article, and having considered the media attention on the Agency in the past couple of months, thought some balance was needed and so there was a blogpost “10 things that NAMA is doing right

This morning, in an unprecedented statement, the Agency itself has hit back. The story in the Sunday Independent is “completely inaccurate and misleading” according to the Agency and the facts are diagonally opposed to what is suggested by the Sunday Independent. The Agency claims “the facts of the situation are that NAMA actions were crucial to resolving a number of issues that NAMA inherited which would have prevented the jobs being created including settling a Court action over rights of way involving an adjoining land owner and settling outstanding development levies owed to South Dublin County Council. This ensured that services and access were provided for over 70 acres in this and an adjoining development site. NAMA’s actions in this matter not only enabled the project to proceed but facilitated the sale of a second adjoining site in the vicinity which will see another high tech computing operation proceed which will create additional employment.  Throughout this project, NAMA dealt directly with South Dublin County Council and with IDA and the Agency has very good relationships with both at senior levels where matters not of NAMA’s making were able to be resolved very quickly.”

NAMA hasn’t restricted itself to the Sunday Independent article however. The Agency claims that it “has seen a significant increase in the number of baseless, critical stories relating to the Agency as the level of enforcement activity by NAMA has increased in recent months and also where NAMA has applied increased pressure on some debtors to reverse asset transfers, reduce overheads or provide unencumbered assets; We have seen increased efforts to spread unfounded and damaging stories about NAMA by some parties whose sole agenda seems to be to frustrate NAMA in carrying out its responsibilities”

This has a ring of credibility to it, but there is also a risk of unjustifiably blaming the “blasted meedja” for shining a light into a very secretive organisation – perhaps secretive because of legislative or contractual constraints but with €74bn of our money, it should not be surprised at the level of interest or scrutiny. But I have no doubt that big beasts are reaching the moment of truth with NAMA where their plans, their assets, their actions and commitments are being tested and there is big money, “lifetime money” at stake.

NAMA of course can also help itself, for example, if it is asked in the middle of normal working hours to comment on a story, particularly one coming from sources that are generally on the button, that the Agency does more than issue a bald “no comment”, and although the Agency will frequently be unable to address the specific intricate details of a case, particularly where the matter is fraught and is ongoing, that should not totally prevent comment on a general basis, particularly where a story might be misleading.  However it seems in the Sunday Independent case that there was no contact with NAMA at all for comment.

NAMA has not commented on the potential for legal action in respect of the Sunday Independent’s reporting.

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