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Archive for February, 2012

At 11am this morning in Court 14 at the Four Courts before Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan will commence battle between Treasury Holdings and NAMA, after NAMA last month sought to appoint receivers to a portfolio of properties controlled by Treasury; the proceedings are pencilled in to last four days. It’s another important legal test for NAMA as its relatively recent procedures come under the legal spotlight again. Whilst NAMA is remaining tight-lipped about the whole matter generally, it seems that Treasury is more forthcoming with the Financial Times yesterday reporting that the following matters are at issue

(1) A claim that NAMA will destroy the value of the property assets placed in receivership and could threaten Treasury’s wider businesses

(2) A claim that NAMA misled the company by continuing negotiations with Treasury on its overall business plan while privately making a decision in December to place its properties in receivership

(3) A claim NAMA rejected without sufficient consideration an offer by third party investors –Macquarie and Hines – to acquire its loans

The Irish Times reports that

(1) Treasury’s third party investors – the implication is that Treasury brought the investor interest to the table – were prepared to offer reasonable terms – elsewhere said to be €600m for loans which NAMA reportedly acquired for €541m but were worth between €1.1-1.5bn at par value. Apparently the third party offers required NAMA to provide staple financing.

(2) Treasury claims it co-operated with NAMA throughout and that the Agency’s action took it completely by surprise

And in respect of NAMA

(1) NAMA is likely to argue that Treasury is insolvent and beyond rescue and that it had lost patience with the developer

It is understood that Michael Cush SC will be batting for Treasury. It’s not clear yet who will be representing NAMA who in the past have had Paul Gallagher SC, the former Attorney General in their corner, though at the hearing in January 2012, it was Cian Ferriter SC who represented the Agency.

The hearing has been billed as an unprecedented look into NAMA’s procedures, including enforcement procedures, and culture, which given the secrecy of the Agency, will probably give us a few headlines in the days ahead.  The position on here is that in principle, NAMA having acquired €1-2bn of loans – it’s unclear from reporting – seems entitled to foreclose on the loans if Treasury is in default. However NAMA has been shown previously to have some sloppy procedures and as with all legal cases, there is an element of a gamble. There is likely to be a strong press presence in Court 14 this morning and there will be an update here later today.

UPDATE (1): 21st February, 2012. RTE has filed the first report on the case for its One O’Clock news bulletin. The broadcaster says that Michael Cush SC has opened the case for Treasury and said Treasury is challenging two NAMA decisions (1) December 8, 2011 to call in Treasury’s loans and (2) January 25, 2012 to appoint receivers. Michael Cush is back on his “fair procedures” mantra which he used, ultimately to good effect at the Supreme Court appeal, in the Paddy McKillen case. It was conceded according to RTE by Treasury that it was insolvent, or more specifically “balance sheet insolvent” [what other kind of “insolvent”, is there?] It is claimed that although NAMA made a decision on 8th December 2011 to appoint receivers, that was not communicated to Treasury until 9th January 2012. Remember this is all from Treasury’s point of view, and NAMA may well refute some or all of this when it gets its turn.

UPDATE (2): 21st February, 2012. Mary Carolan has a solid report on the first days proceedings in the Irish Times. It seems that Treasury is suggesting that NAMA’s foreclosure action is putting 400 jobs at risk – a touchy subject given the unemployment crisis in the country – with the Ritz Carlton, the National Convention Centre, a development in Spencer Dock in north Dublin Docklands and Sligo Town Centre all at risk. We get some more financial information on the financials involved – the Treasury loans are said to be worth €1.5bn at par value and we get information on three offers, one fromUS group CIM for €805m, one from McQuarie for €622m and one from Hines for €600m. The CIM offer is said to have included NAMA’s interest in the Battersea Power Station and it is claimed by Treasury that this offer was agreed by the NAMA board in 2011, yet it did not proceed. Apparently by reversing out the Battersea interest, the CIM offer is comparable with the MacQuarie and Hines’ offers. At least that is what is claimed. Treasury is said to be concerned that NAMA will not maximise the value of the Treasury portfolio if it is sold piecemeal. Not exactly convincing stuff from Treasury, it must be said. The case is scheduled to last another three days and we have yet to hear NAMA’s side of the story. On a human level, nothing of any real gossip value on day one.

UPDATE (2): 22nd February, 2012. The Financial Times reports on Day 1 of proceedings, and adds to the store of knowledge with Treasury’s claims that NAMA’s actions might damage non-NAMA parts of the Treasury empire including Treasury China Trust (TCT), where it is claimed an Asian investor is “interested in acquiring a stake”. There’s a new angle to the CIM offer in 2011 which was  reported elsewhere to have been agreed by the NAMA board, the FT saying “NAMA delayed sign off on the deal when it became concerned about an acquisition of shares in TCT by Treasury founders, Mr Ronan and Mr Barrett. Treasury claims NAMA had full knowledge of the transaction and alleges NAMA’s delay on the CIM deal caused it to fall apart when Irish property prices declined further”

UPDATE (2): 22nd February, 2012. RTE again has the first reporting of today’s proceedings. You might find more detail in terms of NAMA’s case in the coverage of the NAMA affidavits here this afternoon. RTE does report on the conclusion of Treasury’s opening statements and affidavits and says that Treasury’s Richard Barrett claims NAMA’s dealings with the investors was (according to RTE)  “improper behaviour for a public body”.  Treasury’s Richard also says he refused to help disgruntled NAMA developers, though sadly we don’t get more detail on this claim.

UPDATE (3): 22nd February, 2012. Mary Carolan of the Irish Times (who also was credited in the Irish Independent this morning!) has penned a detailed account of today’s proceedings. She adds perspective to the NAMA affidavits and the dispute over “good faith” on NAMA’s part.

UPDATE: 25th February, 2012. The Irish Times and Independent seem to have pooled resources for a strikingly similar review of Day 4 at the Commercial Court. NAMA has expressed concern for Treasury’s ability to fund proceedings should leave be granted for a judicial review and NAMA will seek “ringfenced” funds for the action. Paul Sreenan SC is acting for NAMA, and presumably the other defendants, the Attorney General and the State.  Treasury has withdrawn one of its applications, to seek an injunction preventing dealings by NAMA’s receivers, a withdrawal which presumably places costs on Treasury. Treasury is continuing in its application for a judicial review of NAMA’s dealings with the loans. And despite being pencilled in for just four days, the case will continue next Tuesday.

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“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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This blog is neutral on the NAMA concept. In theory, sucking out the bad or uncertain loans from the country’s banking system, putting a certain value on those loans which was independently verified by the EU and replacing those dodgy loans in the banks – and remember it was the banks that made the original bad loan decisions in the first place – balance sheets with fresh crisp NAMA bonds which could be exchanged for cash at the ECB, then managing those loans on a developer-basis – which originally might have been at multiple banks which allowed developers pull wool over individual banks’ eyes – and  making additional advances for finishing-out projects or maximising returns – all of this could theoretically be a success.

It’s not NAMA’s fault that the losses on the original loans made by the banks were so severe that even after NAMA had sucked the toxin out, the patient was so ill that it needed more transfusions from the State which brought most of the banking sector into public ownership. As for the rest, the jury is still out, but from reviewing the media (including the “new media” such as this blog) in the past couple of months, the picture being presented seems pretty monochrome, depicting NAMA as a failure. Well, that’s unfair; so in the interests of balance, it might be worth pointing out that NAMA is doing some things well. Here are 10:

(1) NAMA has valued and conducted due diligence on €74bn of loans, and received EU approval of €26bn of these acquisitions. It is a monumental achievement to have put a certain value on such loans. The banks have received NAMA bonds for the loans which they can exchange for cash at the ECB. If the original loss estimates for loans at the likes of Anglo had been correctly assessed, NAMA would now largely be seen as a success.

(2) NAMA has evolved from zero in April 2009 to an Agency of 200 today, plus an array of verified and tested third party suppliers. The 200 employees have undergone pre-recruitment testing that has been compared to that used byAmerica’s Central Intelligence Agency, and to date, none has left the Agency with egg on its face. Creating this Agency has been a monumental undertaking, which was necessary in the context of the role handed to NAMA.

(3) The NAMA CEO Brendan McDonagh is by all credible accounts I have come across, an honest, incorruptible, hard-working, diligent leader who leaves any ego outside the door. He has waived his bonus of up to 60% of salary for the first two years of NAMA’s existence. He has waived 15% of his salary for 2012, meaning he is earning €365,500 instead of €430,000. Yes, that is a huge sum, but is teensy by comparison with rewards on offer for similarly-sized asset management companies. The NAMA chairman Frank Daly has likewise taken a cut to his €170,000 fees and is now paid €150,000 per annum, and with a lifetime of public service under his belt and a fearsome reputation from the Revenue Commissioners, could NAMA have a better chairman?

(4) NAMA has scored bulls-eyes with at least three developers’ loans where it has apparently recovered 100% of the original face value of the loans – in the cases of David Daly, Durkan and Paddy McKillen (though there is a residual exposure on the McKillen loans). It may have scored more, but because NAMA is prevented from releasing details of deals, we may never really know.

(5) NAMA has changed the face of receivership in this country and acted to drive down professional services prices. NAMA saw that share receivers were being paid €800 per hour and have promoted the use of property receivers who charge a quarter of this rate and concentrate on maximising income from assets that were collateral for loans. Similarly NAMA defends the payment of salaries to developers with which the Agency is co-operating, saying the average payment of €75-100,000 is good value compared with the appointment of receivers. In two cases, developers are being paid €200,000 per annum but NAMA says this is for the management of multi billion euro portfolios.

(6) In the Paddy McKillen case, NAMA actually won on all points in the High Court, so NAMA’s decision to defend itself against Paddy’s legal challenge seems reasonable enough. At the Supreme Court appeal, it was a score-draw though the effect was that Paddy was entitled to be consulted before his loans were acquired and Paddy had his legal costs reimbursed. But NAMA had no real choice but to defend itself against allegations of unconstitutional behaviour, and despite the Supreme Court loss, NAMA has successful in its other cases.

(7) NAMA has stuck to its objectives, despite increasingly intense political interference. A couple of weeks ago on here, it was exclusively revealed that Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton had intervened in a NAMA decision on a lease involving BSkyB and the creation of 800 jobs. Now we can all criticise NAMA for adhering to its primary objective of maximising value, which may have meant in the Burlington Plaza case, holding out for a single tenant who might pay a premium, but NAMA is doing what it is supposed to do under the Act. Similarly today in the Sunday Independent there is criticism of NAMA’s delays in dealing with a south Dublin property which Google wanted to occupy and accommodate 230 new jobs, but reading the article, it seems to me that the property was still being managed by the “Ford Cortina and three bed-semi”-averse developer, David Agar and, based on the details in the article, it seems on here that it was David Agar who was dragging his feet. And although Minister Hogan might have gotten involved, it seems he didn’t deal with NAMA but with the local authority which was also apparently dragging its feet. Just why should NAMA be the target for criticism here?

(8) NAMA has talked the talk, and walked the walk, in its treatment of developers. It has not been backwards in appointing receivers to some of the best known developer names in the country – Ray Grehan, Sean Dunne, Paddy Kelly, Jim Mansfield, David Daly, David Agar, Paddy Shovlin. It has pursued Ray Grehan through courts in Canada, the USand Britainso as to secure assets which might be used to pay down the Grehan mountain of debt. It has not apparently displayed deference to wealth, connections or political affiliations, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. In fact the NAMA team is as close to The Untouchables – without the Armani wardrobe –  as you’re likely to find in Irish society.

(9) NAMA, despite having an annual costs budget of €200m and managing €74bn of loans at par value, has, almost incredibly, avoided scandal. Yes, there have been allegations of conflict of interest, claims that assets have been disposed of below value to parties associated with debtors and a general narrative that NAMA is a gravy-train for professionals. But the conflicts have been explained away, no claim of below-value disposal has been proven and no-one has demonstrated that NAMA is wasting money – for example by comparing the cost of two courses of action.

(10) NAMA deals with an average of 12 credit decisions a day, every day. This blog receives an average of one complaint per week on the subject of NAMA’s bureaucracy in dealing with sales/leases. The standard response on here is to recommend to the prospective buyer/tenant that they write to the NAMA chairman, Frank Daly with their complaint – he is on record for inviting such correspondence. And here’s the strange phenomenon – not a single complaint has survived correspondence with Frank which indicates to me that NAMA is reasonably responsive, and is doing its work reasonably well.

NAMA is in court against Treasury Holdings this week, and it is clear on here, that big beasts are prowling about testing for NAMA weaknesses. At its core, the case that is set to commence on Tuesday is about NAMA’s freedom to act on loans in pursuit of the NAMA objectives as set out in the NAMA Act. NAMA has suffered from procedural error in the past – for example, failing to ratify pre-incorporation decisions in the Paddy McKillen case – but in general terms, NAMA has not been found at fault for pursuing the principles upon which the Agency was founded, and that includes making decisions to maximise income. Despite what now seems like an erroneous report on here on Thursday evening last, it seems that the Treasury case is going ahead even if there might have been overtures at a settlement, I see that affidavits have been filed for NAMA’s portfolio managers Mary Birmingham and Michael Moriarty and that on the Treaury side there is an affidavit from Dr Michael Cragg of the Brattle group who played a supporting role in the Paddy McKillen case at the High Court in 2010. The Agency might well feel it is embattled at present, but what else might it have expected as it sought to pursue its objectives which would result in losses to some of the most powerful and wealthy people in Irish society, and which would bring it face-to-face with politicians and others pursuing agendas which conflict with the NAMA role set down in law. As stated under the “About” section of this blog, this blog is neutral on the NAMA concept and concerns itself with implementation, and you can expect balanced reporting on the Treasury battle as it gets under way this week where you are likely to learn about a few more things that NAMA is doing right.

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“The One Stop Shop is an information service for all Members relating to salary and allowances. The office also assists Members to access any other Houses of the Oireachtas office service.   It is located on the ground floor, room C 2.60 of Leinster House 2000. Office hours are 9.45am to 6pm Monday to Thursday and 5.45pm on Friday.  The office is also open during lunchtimes on sitting days.  The telephone number is 01 618 4693.” Introduction to the Oireachtas One Stop Shop – our politicians need a dedicated service given the depth and range of salary and allowances to which they are entitled

Let’s start off with a joke. In the Dail (Irish parliament) there is a so-called whip system whereby a politician from each political party is appointed to the post of whip to that party, and their job is to ensure party members turn up at work, that they vote in accordance with the leadership’s wishes and that party members are disciplined. A special additional salary payment is made to the party whip. The Socialist Party has two elected Teachta Dala (TDs, or deputies) – Clare Daly and Joe Higgins. One of them – I’m not sure which, because presumably they are too ashamed to publicly declare it – is entitled to receive a special additional salary payment of €6,000 per annum to be the Socialist Party whip! Cue the punch-line drum roll! Except it’s not a joke, and by the time you finish this blogpost on political pay and allowances in Ireland, you will not be laughing.

This country is bankrupt with an annual deficit of €15bn, in other words we need borrow €300m a week just to keep the country going. We are being bailed out by the IMF and others. We are steadily travelling in a trajectory that will see a debt:GDP of nearly 120% next year or 140%-plus of GNP, or according to most economists, on the border if not having exceeded sustainable levels. We have €3.8bn of new taxes and cuts to services in 2012, next year we will have an additional adjustment of €3.5bn, in 2014 it will be €3.1bn and in 2015 it will be €2bn, and these cuts will be cumulative, so that by 2015 – and in comparison with 2011 – there will be an annual adjustment of €12.4bn. If you think a €100 household charge here, a €5 septic tank registration fee there, a cut to emergency payments or the deterioration in public services after this month’s early retirements are anything, then you ain’t seen nothing yet.

This entry is part one of a two part blogpost examining the salaries, allowances, benefits, perks and entitlements paid to our politicians in our bankrupt country. Part One details most of the financial rewards on offer and is largely derived from Oireachtas inhouse publications, particularly the One Stop Shop and The Members Termination and Pension Entitlements guide as well as responses to parliamentary questions. The delightfully-named “One Stop Shop” is an internal Oireachtas department that helps politicians understand the various components to their salaries and entitlements. You might think its guide set out all the goodies on offer, but it doesn’t and this blogpost has also rooted out other benefits from other sources and has identified other goodies which will be described in Part Two which will be published next Sunday and focuses on the damage done to society and the economy by our gobsmackingly overpaid politicians and expensive political system.

There are three aims of this blogpost (1) to highlight the rewards on offer to politicians in our bankrupt country – these rewards are salary, additional office payments, unvouched allowances, pension, perks and allowances for expenditure which give rise to potential for personal income eg being paid up to  €1.14 per mile as a car allowance and (2) to highlight the cost of our political system, some of the expenses described below will be vouched so the politician doesn’t make a personal profit; nonetheless the country must bear the cost and (3) highlight the potential for chicanery with politicians employing, or buying goods from, family members, and the absence of any oversight on political performance.

Just to recap we have 166 TDs in the Dail, 75 FG, 35 Labour, 19 FF, 14 SF, 2 Socialist Party, 2 People before Profit, 1 Workers and Unemployed Action Group and 18 independents (including 4 independents who had previously lost the party whip). We have one TD per 27,500 men, women, children. In addition we have 60 senators in the Seanad, 20 FG, 14 FF, 12 Labour, 3 SF and 11 independents.

Dail
Basic TD: €92,672 a year, that is, €7,722 a month or €1,782 per week. The recent history of the basic salary is shown in this Oireachtas written response by the late Brian Lenihan.

 

PLUS Additional Salary payment:
Minister of State (15): €37,370
Super Minister of State (Jan O’Sullivan, Paul Kehoe): €17,205 PLUS €37,370
Minister (15): €76,603
Tanaiste: €91,733
Taoiseach: €107,328
Opposition Leader*
Deputy Opposition Leader*

Ceann Comhairle (Sean Barrett): €76,603
Leas-Ceann Comhairle (Michael Kitt): €37,370
Chairpersons of Oireachtas Committees (Andrew Doyle, Ciarán Lynch, Dominic Hannigan, Alex White, Pat Breen,Jerry Buttimer, Joanna Tuffy, Peadar Tóibín, Damien English, David Stanton, Thomas Pringle, Seán Barrett, John McGuinness , Tom Hayes): €9,500
Member of Oireachtas Commission(Senator  John Whelan, Senator  Tom Sheahan, Senator  Marc MacSharry, Deputy  Frank Feighan, Deputy  Dan Neville, Deputy  John Browne, Deputy  Catherine Byrne, Deputy Jack Wall ): €9,500

Whips
The office of “whip” is supposed to maintain party discipline, ensure members turn up to vote and ensure members vote in line with the party leadership.
Chief Whip (Paul Kehoe): no payment specified in One Stop Shop
Assistant Government Whip (Emmet Stagg): €15,000
Whip to Labour Party (Emmet Stagg): no payment specified in One Stop Shop
Asst Whip to Fine Gael (Joe Carey): €7,500
Asst Whip to Labour (John Lyons): €6,000
Whip to Fianna Fail (Sean O’Fearghail): €19,000
Asst Whip to Fianna Fail (John Browne): €9,500
Whip to Sinn Fein (Aengus Ó Snodaigh): €6,000
Asst Whip to Sinn Fein (Jonathan O’Brien): €3,000
Whip to Socialist Party (): €6,000
Whip to People Before Profit (): €6,000

The additional salary above is added to the basic salary, so for example, An Taoiseach receives €200,000 per annum comprising a TDs salary of €92,672 plus An Taoiseach’s additional salary payment of €107,328.

Seanad
Senators: €65,621 a year, that is, €5,468 a month or €1,262 per week

PLUS Additional Salary payment:
Cathaoirleach (Paddy Burke):  €44,336
Leas-Chathaoirleach (Denis O’Donovan): €24,429
Leader of the Seanad (Maurice Cummins): €19,439
Deputy Leader of the House (Ivana Bacik): €9,500
Government Whip (Paul Coghlan): €6,000
Assistant Government Whip (Susan O’Keeffe): €4,000
Fianna Fáil Leader (Darragh O’Brien): €9,500
Independent Group of Nominee Senators’ Leader (Jillian Van Turnhout): €6,000
Independent Group of University Senators’ Leader (Ronan Mullen): €6,000
Fianna Fáil Whip (Diarmuid Wilson): €6,000
Independent Group of Nominee Senators’ Whip (Katherine Zappone): €4,000
Independent Group of University Senators’ Whip (Sean Barrett):  €4,000
Select Committee on Members’ Interests of Seanad Éireann (Ivana Bacik, Deirdre Clune,David Cullinane, Maurice Cummins, Ronan Mullen, Darragh O’Brien, Jillian Turnhout) : €3,100 per annum

Dail and Seanad
Pension
TDs and senators contribute 6% of their salary a year for up to a maximum of 20 years in order to benefit from the Dail pension scheme. The scheme has different conditions depending on whether or not you joined before 2004. There are payments due to the politician under the scheme and to widow(ers) and children in the case of death. It is a final salary scheme which allows for a maximum of ½ the final salary to be paid for life from aged 65 – 1/40th of final salary is accrued for each year of service. It provides for a lump sum upon retirement and it is possible to take early retirement from age 50. It is hoped that in part two of this blogpost, there will be an estimate of how much the Oireachtas scheme would cost an employee an employee to buy in a private company.

Allowances
Travel and Accommodation: €12,000-€37,850 per annum depending on distance from the Leinster House. Senators get paid €7,000-€32,850 per annum and so-called “office holders” get paid €8,400-€36,150 per annum
Public Representation Allowance: €15,000 for TDs (no evidence of expenditure required – unvouched) or up to €25,700 (supported by invoices and receipts – vouched); Ministers €12,000 (unvouched) to €20,000 (vouched); Senators €9,250 (unvouched) to €15,000 (vouched)
Dual Abode allowance:  This applies to ministers only and allows Ministers to claim tax deductions on mortgages, rental or hotel accommodation PLUS tax deductions for maintaining property and other expenses which can be up to €6,500 UNVOUCHED. According to Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan “a tax deduction can be claimed in respect of the amount of the annual interest actually paid on any loan taken out to purchase the second residence. In addition, Ministers can claim a deduction for the actual vouched costs expended in maintaining the second residence. Examples of maintenance costs in such circumstances are lighting, heating, repairs and insurance. As an alternative to vouched maintenance expenses, a tax deduction may be claimed on an amount of €6,500 per annum.” And “If the second residence is rented accommodation, Ministers can claim for the actual cost of renting the accommodation (i.e. the annual rent). In addition, Ministers can claim a tax deduction for the actual vouched costs expended in maintaining the second residence. Examples of maintenance costs in such circumstances are lighting, heating and insurance of contents. As an alternative to vouched expenses, a tax deduction may be claimed on an amount of €4,500 per annum” and “If Ministers use hotel or guesthouse accommodation as a second residence, they can claim for the actual cost of room rental (i.e. the annual hotel/guest house bill excluding meals, etc). In addition, they can claim for the actual vouched additional costs associated with maintaining a second residence in a hotel. Examples of maintenance costs in such circumstances are laundry, etc. As an alternative to vouched expenses, a tax deduction may be claimed on an amount of €3,500 per annum.”

Independents allowance^
This is reported to be €41,152 per annum each for the 18 independent TDs (Stephen Donnelly, Luke Flanagan, Mick Wallace, Shane Ross, Thomas Pringle, Michael Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Tom Fleming, Noel Grealish, John Halligan, Catherine Murphy, Maureen O’Sullivan PLUS four TDs who have had the party whip removed Tommy Broughan, Willie Penrose, Denis Naughten and Patrick Nulty ); it has been suggested that loss of a party whip doesn’t automatically give an entitlement to an independent’s allowance, and that a member must be elected as an independent before becoming entitled to that allowance.

and €23,388 for 11 independent senators (John Crown, David Norris, Sean Barrett, Martin McAleese, Feargal Quinn, Ronan Mullen, Fiach Mac Conghail, Marie-Louise O’Donnell, Jillian van Turnhout, Katherine Zappone, Mary Ann O’Brien – note the 12th independent Eamonn Coghlan joined Fine Gael last week)

Termination payments
Last November 2011, Minister for Housing Willie Penrose is reported to have been paid a termination payment when he resigned his ministerial post following a dispute over the closing of a military barracks in his constituency. The payment was reported to have totalled €30,000. Minister Penrose had been in the ministerial post for eight months. I can’t find anything in the One Stop Shop on this termination payment.
However the pensions guide does set out termination payments for ordinary TDs and senators. You get a lump sum upon termination PLUS a monthly payment for up to a year. As long as you have at least six months service in either the Dail or Seanad, you get a termination payment of two months salary. The monthly payment depends on how many years you’ve been a TD or senator eg for five years, you get three months at 75% of your salary. If you have over 14 years service, then you’d be entitled to 6 months at 75% of salary plus the following six months at 50% of salary.

Anything else?
Mileage allowances for ministers of up to €1.14 per mile for cars of 2001cc and above for the first 4,000 miles. Not bad compensation for losing ministerial cars and drivers which, incidentally, are still provided to An Taoiseach, An Tanaiste and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.


Each minister and minister of state, except An Taoiseach, An Tanaiste and justice minister, is entitled to recruit two drivers apiece at a cost which is charged to each department.
When ministers spend the night in a hotel, they can get reimbursed for the cost of the hotel PLUS 15% as a service charge – movies and laundry I guess – plus €72.66 for subsistence – those mini-bars are bandits!
When any members attend certain so-called “parliamentary assemblies” eg the OSCE, they can claim hotel expenses, a subsistence allowance plus up to 80% of the allowance for “casual entertaining”
A Parliamentary Assistant
Up to €41,092 per TD for secretarial assistance, PR, IT and training
€8,000 per TD to set up and kit out a constituency office
Free parking in central Dublin
Gym
Subsidised restaurant
Private Members bar at Leinster House with subsidised drinks
Free tax advice service
Free language lessons
Postage – 1,500 free postage items per month for TDs and 1,000 for senators
Free toner cartridges up to a maximum value of €2,000 annually (reporting suggests this was introduced after Sinn Fein’s Aengus O’Snodaigh had been requesting 2-3 toner cartridges per day at a cost of about €130 each)
Free unlimited fixed line telephone calls
Max of €750 every 18 months to buy a new mobile phone
Dail office and conference room facilities
VHI Group scheme (this is paid for)
Automobile Association group scheme (eg €46 for Home Start)
Insurance (eg Contents cover for constituency office €51.50)
Personal Accident (prices not available) and death insurance (costs €60-90 per month)

Keeping it in the family
In Northern Ireland, it is a requirement of membership of the Assembly that members report any payments made to family members. So if a politician employs their spouse as an assistant, that is reported and made public. We don’t have any such reporting requirement in our republic. But surely our media would have exposed such practices if they were widespread. Surely there can’t be an army of underqualified, underworked €41k a year parliamentary assistants or secretaries who happen to be wives, husbands  and close family members given sweetheart jobs?

The lights are on, but is there anyone home
Michael Lowry, the controversial independent TD from Tipperary has been assigned to seat B28 in the Dail, that’s beside Mattie McGrath and Michael Healy-Rae on the front bench to the right of the speaker. Has anyone seen Michael in that seat since his speech last year in response to the Moriarty Tribunal? Of course you don’t need to be in the Dail chamber itself to observe what’s going on, and you can submit written questions. But in order to speak in debates you have to be there, they don’t do Skype yet! Maybe he’s just been coincidentally absent whenever I’ve viewed proceedings. And of course he may be performing other tasks for constituents, making phone calls, writing letters or he may be in meetings. He’s not a member of any Oireachtas committees but he does submit the odd written question. According to the Leinster House record of attendance, he has been present in the building for all 101 days in the period Feb-Dec 2011. His website does show some of his activities and he says he does write to ministers directly. His website shows him “calling for” lots of things, but it is unclear how exactly he does “call”.

In order to be present in the building, you have to tap your key fob against one of the terminals located around Leinster House, pictured below. You can also sign in at the One Stop Shop and should you do neither you can still retrospectively claim attendance if you can prove you booked a room or can show you were in the Dail, for example on video playback.

Part One today has been about stenography, recording what our politicians are paid. Part Two will examine the context of these salaries and costs.

* Not known. This is paid out of funding provided by the State to political parties. In 2010 the leader and deputy leader of the Labour party are reported to have received a combined total of €22,100. It is not clear what payments are made today to the leaders and deputy leaders of opposition parties.

^ In addition to directly paid allowances, political parties receive State funding and reporting on the use of such funding shows that it is used by political parties for rent, travel and subsistence, meetings, entertainment, telephone costs. The Labour party is reported to have received €14.5m between 2004-2010, an average of over €2m a year Some of these expenses may be claimed by politicians.

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This morning the Central Bank of Ireland released its mortgage arrears and repossession statistics for the quarter ending 31st December 2011. The figures show a progressively worse deterioration in arrears. The Q4,2011 figures are shown below along with the historical series since Q3,2009 when the series was first created.

 

Of the 768,917 mortgage accounts in the State, 70,911 (9.22%) are in arrears of more than 90 days and of these, 53,086 mortgage accounts are in arrears for more than 180 days, equal to six months. With six months plus of arrears, accounts have a high probability of defaulting.

In addition to the above figures, which are appalling, 36,987 mortgage accounts have been restructured and are performing. In half these cases, the restructure is so as to repay interest only. Other restructured formats include repayment holidays, or reduced capital repayments.

In other words, 107,708 mortgage accounts are now either in 90-day-plus arrears or are not being repaid according to the original loan agreement. That’s one in seven mortgage accounts.

The above statistics, in addition to being personal nightmares for the families and borrowers involved, are a nightmare for the economy depressing demand, threatening bank balance sheets and possibly indicating a wave of repossessions which will undermine property prices further. Banks are suggesting the Government’s dithering on personal insolvency arrangements – the latest is the heads of a bill have been published, and the final bill is to be published in April 2012 and it will be enacted some time after that, but it may be some months. There are a code for dealing with mortgage arrears which presently just appears to be kicking the problem down the road.

Here is a comparison between Ireland and the UK, showing that Ireland suffers far more from arrears but far less with repossessions. With our negative equity and unemployment, the writing appears to be on the wall for a major adjustment in how arrears are dealt with. Banks are already complaining that borrowers are strategically not paying mortgages in order to take advantage of any imminent bankruptcy legislation.

 

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Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming has promised NAMA a show-down on the subject of NAMA’s interest income reported in its accounts. Whilst we’re waiting for High Noon, the Sinn Fein finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty has extracted information from NAMA this week which shows that NAMA is receiving far less interest in cash terms than it is showing in its accounts – €249m less in fact for the first nine months of 2011. Why? Because NAMA uses a convoluted accounting method to calculate what interest the Agency thinks it should be getting.

It’s unfortunate that the Effective Interest Rate (EIR) method of calculating interest means that interest income recognised now is greater than the actual cash coming in the door. It could theoretically be the other way round, with income less than cash received, but we wouldn’t be so concerned in that case, because cash is trusted more than some convoluted accounting calculation. We are also living through the legacy of a banking collapse which had previously seen banks booking rolled up interest and deferred interest as income, and we know now only too well that such practices led to over-inflated bank profits which later vanished and were replaced with crippling losses. So NAMA should expect its disclosure of its interest reporting policies to be met with guffaws of cynicism, and if NAMA were a little more transparent then this may not have been an issue at all.

What do we learn:

Because the EIR method uses projections of interest that will be received in future, NAMA can expect further questioning about the basis for those projections. Remember NAMA originally thought it was going to make a €5bn profit in Net Present Value terms, its latest business plan shows a central  scenario profit of €1bn. NAMA thought Irish property values were at a bottom in November 2009 and yet both commercial and residential have fallen by 20-30% since then. So NAMA might understand if its projections for interest income are robustly tested –  the Agency’s history with financial projections hasn’t exactly been covered in glory.

We also learn that for the at 30th September, 2011 the average blended rate charged on performing loans (21% of the NAMA total by reference to original par values, 24% of the total number of loans) was 3.4% per annum – that is likely to have come down by about 0.5% in the last quarter of 2011 as the ECB reduced its benchmark interest rate by 0.25% in each of two months during Q4,2011. So the betting is the average blended rate today would be 2.9%.

However we also learned that in respect of the non-performing loans that NAMA also receives some interest and that it worked out at 0.38% per annum by reference to the original values of the loans. So to illustrate, if NAMA has €74bn of loans, about €15bn are performing and paying interest at 2.9% now. Of the remaining €59bn, NAMA is getting 0.38% or €224m per annum which is useful.

UPDATE: 23rd February, 2012. In the Dail yesterday, the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty focussed on NAMA’s accounting for interest received and receivable. It fell to the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Brian Hayes to field the questions. The exchange is here, and the upshot is that the Department of Finance is satisfied that because the Comptroller and Auditor General has not raised any issue with NAMA’s EIR accounting for interest receivable that all is fine and dandy. Reference was also made to  ” comments made at the Committee of Public Accounts, NAMA has advised that it is examining with the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General how it could enhance its disclosures on the movement in the original par value of NAMA’s loans”. What doesn’t inspire confidence is junior Minister Hayes claiming that NAMA had “supremely discounted” the loans acquired from the banks. As we have seen property values in Ireland have decline 20-30% since November 2009 – NAMA’s valuation date – and NAMA paid a 10% average Long Term Economic Value, to boot. The EIR methodology subjectively depends on NAMA’s expert view of what will be realised from the underlying security, and given NAMA’s unwarranted optimism which has been proved wrong at practically every turn, this EIR methodology should give us cause for concern.

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Claims this afternoon and evening from credible sources that NAMA has decided to abandon its defence in the legal action brought against the Agency by Treasury Holdings. A consequence of such a move on NAMA’s part would be the standing down of its receivers which it appointed in January 2012 to assets in the Treasury Holdings group of companies. Neither NAMA nor Treasury’s solictors, McCann FitzGerald have commented on the claims.

You’ll recall that following a repayment-of-loans ultimatum issued by NAMA to Treasury which expired on 25th January, 2012 NAMA moved to appoint receivers to a property empire said to be worth almost €1bn. Treasury, led by the dynamic duo of the colourful Johnny Ronan and understated Richard Barrett immediately ran to the courts, and sought injunctions against the appointment of receivers, and also a judicial review of the way in which NAMA was treating Treasury’s loans.

On 26th January, the High Court in Dublin considered the applications and set the matter down for a preliminary hearing on 21st February 2012. Prior to that date, Treasury was required to provide NAMA with its pleadings, and it is understood that upon receipt of those pleadings, NAMA decided to throw in the towel and abandon its defence. The logical consequence would be that the receivers, Ernst and Young and PwC , would be “stood down”

So what might have prompted NAMA’s apparent change of heart? NAMA isn’t commenting, which is par for the course with NAMA and court cases. But sources suggest it was the content of Treasury’s pleadings. You’ll recall that Treasury is represented by what are regarded as one of the smartest law firms inDublin, McCann FitzGerald, and Michael Cush SC was leading the charge in the court-room. Michael Cush helped Paddy McKillen to an effective victory with NAMA last year – technically it was a score draw in that Paddy lost on two points, but he won the right to consultation, and NAMA abandoned his the acquisition of his loans and agreed to pay his costs.

These were the Treasury Holdings/Johnny Ronan firms to which NAMA is recorded by Iris Oifigiuil as having appointed receivers :

Callside Developments Limited

Rushrid Limited

Tenderbrook Limited

Wintertide Limited

Sencode Limited

Coolred Limited

Radtip Limited

Lornabay Limited

Ballymun Shopping Centre Limited

Twynholm Limited

Rigol Limited

Colata Investments Limited

Hakaton Limited

Everglade Properties Limited

Benreef Limited

Carlovent Limited

Beckton Properties Limited

Abbono Limited

Candourity Limited

Montevetro Limited

Montevetro II Limited

IREO Irish Real Estate Opportunities Fund PLC

We await a statement from Treasury Holdings. In the past Johnny Ronan hasn’t been backwards in coming forward with his views to various media outlets. If confirmed, NAMA will face questions over its actions. And if rumours coming out of London this evening in the Paddy McKillen case are to be believed, then NAMA is facing an uncomfortable few weeks in defending its dealings.

UPDATE: 17th February, 2012.  A source close to NAMA rejected the report above and suggested there was no change to NAMA’s plans in respect of the court case. No official word from either side yet.

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“All other euro countries [the 17 excluding Greece only] solemnly reaffirm their inflexible determination to honour fully their own individual sovereign signature and all their commitments to sustainable fiscal conditions and structural reforms. The euro area Heads of State or Government fully support this determination as the credibility of all their sovereign signatures is a decisive element for ensuring financial stability in the euro area as a whole.” EU summit statement in July 2011

Cast your minds back to the balmy summer days last year, and specifically 21st July 2011 when the EU held a summit which saw Greece, Portugal and Ireland secure reductions to the interest rates on the bailouts, saving nearly €10bn in the case of Ireland. Remember the conditions attached, which were set out in the Summit Statement? Do you remember the commitment to “solemnly reaffirm” an “inflexible determination to honour fully .. individual sovereign signatures”?

The reason I ask is that from listening to some contributions in the past few days, you might have gotten a different impression about Anglo’s promissory notes – technically they’re promissory notes issued by Anglo and Irish Nationwide Building Society which has merged and is now called IBRC – which were signed by former Minister for Finance, the late Brian Lenihan and which were backed up by so-called “letters of comfort” signed by Minister Lenihan and addressed to the Central Bank of Ireland and which gave various undertakings including “the policy of the Government that the Bank should not incur a loss on the provision of emergency liquidity assistance to support Irish credit institutions. Accordingly if any such loss is in prospect, the Government will [redacted] provide for the Bank to receive payment to make good any shortfall”. And you’ll remember that the promissory notes were issued pursuant to a banking guarantee which was debated and approved in the national parliament in September 2008?

You might be forgiven for getting the impression that some people think we can now welch on the promissory notes whilst forgetting about our commitment to the EU last year in return for which we received an interest rate cut – by “welch” I mean depart from the terms which include an interest rate and repayment schedule, to which Ireland, through its finance minister, has given its “sovereign signature”.

Yes there are certainly ethical and moral reasons why these promissory notes shouldn’t be paid. They represent bank losses which the previous Government convinced the national parliament to place onto the shoulders of citizens, at a time when the scale of losses was apparently unclear . There are even economic reasons why the notes shouldn’t be repaid – they involve Ireland taking on more debt to pay the notes because our tax income isn’t even sufficient to pay for our State expenditure, let alone fund the promissory notes – and our debt is consequently expected to reach 120% of GDP in 2013. Domestically some people say that’s unsustainable. Others, like the Irish Fiscal Council, apparently say it’s not. But really the domestic debate is irrelevant. It’s the external view that is relevant.

And the view of Europe generally is that Italy with a 120% debt:GDP has sustainable debt. It is the view of Europe generally that allowing Greece write down some debt so as to get to 120% debt:GDP in 2020 is sustainable. What’s magical about 120%? Nothing really except the higher the debt ratio, the more likely it is that it will be unsustainable and some macroeconomists suggest that it is above this level that a nation’s debt becomes unsustainable. Others say it should be no more than 80% or 90%. And of course the EU Stability and Growth Pact places it at no more than 60%. But regardless of what we think domestically and regardless of what macroeconomists think, the people that matter – the EU and the ECB – think that 120% debt:GDP is sustainable. And even after paying these godforsaken promissory notes we will still have a debt:GDP of just less than 120%.

“But”, the argument goes “if Ireland defers the payment of these promissory notes for a number of years, until we get back on our feet, it won’t affect the EU” so why wouldn’t the EU, and particularly the ECB, accede to a request fromIrelandto defer payment? These miserable promissory notes make up less than 0.5% of the money supply throughout the EuroZone. Surely it won’t affect anything if such a small sum of money is left owing for a small number of years?

But if the ECB agrees to Ireland’s special pleading – which incidentally it shows no sign of doing and if body language and physical approach means anything, then ECB president Draghi was very dismissive of the notion at the monthly ECB press conference last Thursday – then what about other troubled economies in the EuroZone? For example, some of the world’s top investors currently regard Spain as a basket-case in the making, even if they’re not saying so publicly. Last year, on here there was an analysis of the Spanish property and credit boom which mirrored our own, and the curiosity thatSpain had revealed such minor losses in its banks to date was highlighted. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Spanish authorities ordered banks to make a €50bn provision for additional losses on loans.

Now what happens if Spain needs to bailout its banks so as to prop up its troubled economy? Will the Spanish government be able to write promissory notes worth billions to its banks which can be used to access funding from its central bank? And what happens if Spain then decides that paying back these promissory notes is too much of a burden and asks the ECB for a deferral?

Recent positive comments by Ministers Creighton, Rabbitte, Varadkar regarding the prospects for getting some deal on the promissory notes, are all noted. As is the IBRC chairman Alan Dukes description of “the possibility” of some concession on the promissory notes as “good”. There is some unease at the apparent contradiction between An Taoiseach claiming it was the Troika’s own suggestion to write a paper on options for dealing with the promissory notes and the Troika’s more muted claim that it was Ireland that had requested “technical discussions”. All of them are to be wished well in their endeavours, however intense or light they may be, but as Dr Stephen Kinsella told an Oireachtas committee yesterday, it will not be a real success for Ireland if politicians simply achieve an interest rate reduction because the interest on the promissory notes is paid by the Government to IBRC which we own 100%.

The position on here is that, as moral and fair as Ireland’s position is, and as much as our economy is jeopardised by these notes, we have agreed to pay them and the ECB will not approve any deferral or write-down. Unless there is (1) Unilateral action (2) The threat of unilateral action (3) Communication which makes clear that unilateral action is regarded as more than a theoretical possibility (4) Communication which questions whether the promissory notes indeed carry “the sovereign signature” or (5) Communication which suggests the people will be consulted on the matter, and until then, the view on here is that these “intensive negotiations” will fail.

UPDATE: 23rd February, 2012. In an exchange in the Dail yesterday, the junior Minister  at the Department of Finance, Brian Hayes seemed to concede that the imminent payment of €3.1bn on the promissory notes at the end of March 2012 will go ahead and will not be affected by any ongoing discussions or “technical papers”. The Minister was responding to questions by the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty and said “unfortunately, I am not in a position to indicate when the review of options and negotiations will be completed. The Government is aware that payment of the promissory note is due at the end of March 2012. However, given the nature of advocacy and the decision-making process in the EU, I would not expect this matter to be concluded in the short term” Now it’s not cut-and-dry as to what this means but the proximity of the reference to the March 2012 tranche payment and the Minister’s view that the matter will not be concluded in the short term does not fill you with hope.

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In response to a question from Sinn Fein, NAMA has this morning provided a geographical analysis of the advances it is providing to developers; you’ll recall that NAMA is allowed, under the NAMA Act, to provide up to a total of €5bn to developers in additional lending to help finish out projects and maximise the amount that can be recovered on the original loan. NAMA has provided a split of it approved advances – totalling €980m – and a split of its actual drawn-down advances – totalling €740m – for the Republic of Ireland,Northern Ireland,Britain(which NAMA confusingly calls “UK”) and “other locations”. NAMA has provided % splits, the following table shows NAMA’s information together with calculated € values.

The table above also shows the split of NAMA’s assets by reference to NAMA’s acquisition values – totalling €31.8bn, and a split of the locations of NAMA’s foreclosed properties; both sets of figures are extracted from the NTMA’s recent investor roadshow presentation, pages 68-69, available here.

These figures will not make anyone happy. Britain has gotten the lions-share of the drawn-down funds but €385m is unlikely to make much difference to the UK’s €1.8 tn economy. However the Republic of Ireland where 57% of NAMA’s assets by acquisition value are located has got just 39% – when you consider that we have 440,000 on the Live Register and more than 310,000 unemployed, you’d have to wonder why NAMA has been so slow to deal with unfinished projects like the intended Anglo HQ in north Dublin Docklands (pictured above) – NAMA has apparently been faffing about with the sale of this building for over six months, in October 2011 it said it expected to make a decision in November and three months later, there’s not been a dickybird – the Central Bank of Ireland, BNY Mellon and others are said to have been seriously negotiating for the property.

Northern Ireland politicians will be wondering why, with an estimated 5% of the NAMA portfolio by reference to estimated acquisition values, that only 1% of new advances is being spent there – bad enough that the Republic has welched on its promised funding for the A5 road between Derry and Omagh but now, its so-called “bad bank” is seemingly avoiding investment as well.

NAMA is presently sitting on a cash mountain of some €3bn. NAMA pays interest on its bonds at the six month Euribor rate, currently just over 1% per annum. NAMA has a commercial remit to maximise the return on its assets, but you’d really have to ask, if the Agency is unable to find a use for its cash mountain that delivers more than a 1% return, why can’t the Agency find commercial projects? The Agency says  “there is strong reason to expect that commercial prices will stabilise this year”, so what’s holding the Agency back?

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News this afternoon that NAMA is changing its organisational structure a little. Here’s a chart prepared on here which shows the new organisation.

 

John Mulcahy’s role, which was Head of Portfolio Management and is now Head of Asset Management, seems to have narrowed a little and it seems to me that there is quite a lot of overlap between his role and that of Ronnie Hanna’s – might the owlish Brendan be preparing for a future resignation? According to the NAMA press release, John’s new remit “will be responsible for working with debtors, receivers and joint venture partners to identify and develop and asset manage assets where value can be added so as to enhance future cashflow” whereas Ronnie Hanna’s is to “work with debtors and Receivers to enhance the effective and efficient management of loan recoveries. It will be formed from the merger of the existing divisions of Portfolio Management, Credit and Lending & Corporate Finance” Ronnie seems to have absorbed much of NAMA’s recently-departed – he’s gardening and fishing according to his LinkedIn profile, apparently – Head of Lending, Graham Emmett.

Sean O’Faolain seems to be getting the “right hand man” role to the CEO, in that he is responsible for “strategy” as well as communications. If, God forbid, Brendan McDonagh got run over by a bus or Maybach tomorrow, it looks on here as if Sean would step into his shoes.

Aideen O’Reilly continues to be responsible for legal affairs and we know NAMA is involved in quite a number of those. She seems to have lost her remit over tax which goes to…

A new role of Chief Financial Officer, which has been created and “in the coming week” NAMA will start the recruitment process for this role. The new person will have a broad range of responsibilities befitting a €30bn asset management company.

There’s still no word about the two vacancies on the NAMA board caused by the departure in October and November of Peter Stewart and Michael Connolly. These appointments are largely in Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan’s hands but he seems more concerned at present in creating his very own NAMA advisory board.

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