As former Anglo executives Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan contemplate the eventual possibility of an 80-year jail term each, arising from 16 charges laid before each yesterday in Dublin’s District Court, one of NAMA’s active law firms must be feeling distinctly uncomfortable.
In October 2010, the Irish Times reported – the report is now mostly behind a paywall but is substantially reproduced by the Broadsheet.ie here – that major Irish law firm Matheson Ormsby Prentice (MOP) “advised the board of Anglo Irish Bank in July 2008 that the loans to the children of Seán Quinn to buy shares in the bank did not breach company law or constitute “unlawful financial assistance” It seems MOP in fact put their advice in writing to the Anglo board.
But yesterday in the Dublin District Court, Messrs McAteer and Whelan were charged with 16 counts each – one for each person to whom Anglo advanced loans for the purchase of its shares – of offences under section 60 of the 1963 Companies Act and each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a €3,100 fine. It might be a fair bet that both men are right now feeling a little miffed at the advice apparently provided to the Anglo board in July 2008! Neither man is understood to have entered any plea at this stage, both men have been released on bail and the matter is scheduled to be dealt with in court from October of this year.
It was revealed last week that NAMA has so far paid €994,000 to MOP for due diligence work undertaken during the acquisition of loans from banks by the Agency. But MOP is also on both NAMA’s enforcement and financing panels. MOP, whose chairman is Sir Anthony O’Reilly is one of Ireland’s leading law firms and has offices in Dublin, London, New York and Palo Alto.
Last week MOP was the firm of solicitors behind an application on behalf of NAMA at Dublin’s High Court.
NAMA was asked if it has plans to sever or suspend links with MOP after yesterday’s developments, if it still had confidence in the ability of the firm and the advice provided and if it had taken steps to investigate the newspaper report about the advice given by MOP to the board of Anglo. Any response will be posted as an update here. NAMA has in the past been eager to make it clear that it has not used the legal services of the firm associated with solicitor, Brian O’Donnell who is being pursued for the repayment of property-related loans.
The Irish Times report deals with just six of the 16 individuals to whom loans were advanced by Anglo, the six being the five Sean Quinn senior children and Sean Quinn senior’s wife, Patricia. The other 10, commonly known as the “Anglo Golden Circle” or “Maple 10” appear not to feature in the advice reportedly given by MOP.