[UPDATE: 28th September 2012. The following has been received from the Sunday Independent “The Sunday Independent would like to clarify that Nama was contacted in relation to the Greystones Harbour Development story as were the other parties involved. Our reporter stands by her story and notes that neither Nama nor the Sisk Group has sought a clarification from us. We also note that Namawinelake made no attempt to contact us prior to coming to his or her conclusion: “maybe it would be a good idea for the Sindo to seek comment from parties when publishing such stories and if they are “inaccurate” to publish corrections.””
To which, the response on here is: “it was Minister for Finance Michael Noonan who told the Dail via a reply to a Parliamentary Question that the story in the Sunday Independent was “inaccurate”. Presumably the Sunday Independent will now contact the Minister to request that the record be corrected as necessary. The reference on here to the Sunday Independent seeking comment was based on the absence of comment noted in the report of 2nd September 2012 and the fact that NAMA lambasted the Sunday Independent for not contacting it beforehand with respect to the Google story which is the subject of the NAMA press release referred to at the top of this blogpost.]
Earlier this year NAMA was so outraged by the standard of reporting at the Sunday Independent that it took the unprecedented step of issuing a press release rejecting a story and criticising reporting standards at what is still Ireland’s best-selling Sunday newspaper. It emerged that NAMA subsequently referred the Sunday Independent to the Press Ombudsman following the publication of a separate story. Now NAMA says that another story in the Sindo is wrong.
Earlier this week the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan about a report in the 2nd September edition of the Sunday Independent, this was a story by Roisin Burke which claimed that NAMA had agreed a controversial debt write-down. The Sindo reported “NAMA is believed to have written down over €50m of debt attached to the blighted Greystones Harbour Development. The write-down is thought to be part of a secretive deal struck to allow building giant Sisk Group to take over the project, which is a public-private partnership in conjunction with Wicklow County Council.” Following this report in the Sindo, the matter was re-reported on here but expanded to deal with what would have been a controversial aspect of any such debt write-down, namely the sale of a defaulted-on debt to one of the debtors. NAMA was asked by this blog – though seemingly not by the Sindo, or if it did, there is no note in the report of NAMA’s response – for a comment on the matter, and as is normal with “individual cases” NAMA responded to say it didn’t comment on such cases. In the parliamentary question this week, based on the Sindo story, Deputy Doherty challenged NAMA’s reported debt write-down, Minister Noonan said that “the media report which has prompted the Deputy’s question is inaccurate”. The controversial aspect of the report, if it had been accurate, would have been NAMA writing down a loan to a debtor, albeit one of a consortium of two debtors with one understood to be repaying its part of the loan, though if the loan were to be enforced then presumably that debtor would have been severally liable for their partner’s default. At Greystones Harbour and in the case of the Sispar consortium, it is understood that the performing debtor was Sisk, the debtor in default is Michael Cotter’s Park Homes. But given the Sindo story was inaccurate, the question seemingly doesn’t arise. And maybe it would be a good idea for the Sindo to seek comment from parties when publishing such stories and if they are “inaccurate” to publish corrections…
This is the full exchange
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance further to a report in a Sunday newspaper that the National Asset Management Agency has agreed a substantial debt write-down on a loan that was made to a consortium of two companies developing Greystones Harbour, if the loan in question was in default of any of its covenants including loan-to-value covenants, and if so the basis on which NAMA agreed to any debt write-down arrangement with one party to the consortium and how such arrangement sits with section 172 of the NAMA Act?.
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan : I am advised that, under Sections 99 and 202 of the NAMA Act 2002 and the normal rules of banking confidentiality, NAMA is precluded from disclosing the details of transactions involving debtors. I am also advised that the media report which has prompted the Deputy’s question is inaccurate.