And just to keep the “five” theme going, some of the estimated €5bn in debt owed by NAMA developers just to NAMA will be written off in less than 5 months if Sean Dunne’s Good Friday filing in Connecticut plays out as Sean plans.
I really don’t see how justice minister Alan Shatter’s new bankruptcy law will ever be accepted, when it is finally commenced. If Irish people have to endure a “reformed” set of rules that will impose North Korean-style intrusion into their personal lives as well as reducing people to counting the euros and cents for every single purchase, be it for a jar of coffee or a roll of toilet paper, whilst NAMA developers up sticks, move to another jurisdiction, file for bankruptcy with multi €100m debts, and see themselves emerge financially reborn in a matter of months; surely all of this will spark widespread outrage.
There is a leaked 60-page guide doing the rounds which sets out in some detail how debtors will need curtail their lives if they opt for the new insolvency arrangements which are expected to be launched shortly; the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 was signed into law by President Higgins on 26th December 2012 but Minister Shatter needs to “commence” the Act so that its provisions apply, and because of delays with establishing the personal insolvency service, the infrastructure to deal with the anticipated flood of insolvency applications isn’t up and running yet. But the leaked guidelines indicate that when the arrangements are finally commenced some time this year, a family of four will be “allowed” a food allowance of €560 per month which equates to €5 per person per day, in fact €4.60 if the €560 relates to a calendar month. Personal insolvency is a new process for Irish people and is designed to allow you to pay off some of your debts over a period, 60 months or five years in the case of the Debt Settlement Arrangement, longer and shorter periods apply for other arrangements, as long as you agree to certain actions including living within a budget and selling assets, and at the end, you might see some of your debt written off.
Meanwhile, the tally of NAMA developers filing for bankruptcy outside the Republic of Ireland continues to grow, with Sean Dunne just the latest in the following list.
So, how much has NAMA seen written off as a result of these foreign bankruptcies? It is impossible to tell for a number of reasons but we can have a stab at it. Firstly, we don’t generally know how much is owing to NAMA. Developer A may have had a €2bn loan from Anglo, but NAMA might have acquired that loan for just €1bn. We know that overall, NAMA paid 43c in the euro for the €74bn of loans it acquired from the banks for which it paid just €32bn. Secondly, we generally don’t have access to the bankruptcy papers in other jurisdictions. An exception is the case of John Fleming who filed for bankruptcy in the UK in 2010, and the papers were obtained by the Sunday Times and are available from Gavin Sheridan’s thestory.ie here. The bankruptcy period in the UK, including Northern Ireland, is generally 12 months. John owed nearly €1.1bn.We don’t know how much his assets were worth.
We do know that NAMA obtained €300m judgments against each of the two Grehan brothers, Danny and Ray. They will have had some assets to offset against these judgments, but with Irish commercial property down 70% from peak, development land down 90% and residential down 50%, the chances are that any recovery by NAMA will be minor. NAMA has pursued the Grehans in Canada, the US and Britain to reverse asset transfers, but even these are unlikely to make much of a dent in the €600m judgments in favour of NAMA, and remember they may have debts owing to non-NAMA creditors as well.
Bernard McNamara was regarded as a NAMA Top 10 developer which would mean that he owed an average of €1.8bn to the Agency – NAMA says that the Top 12 owed it €22bn. Again, Bernard will have had some assets to which NAMA had receivers appointed, or which will have been handed over by Bernard as part of the bankruptcy. But we know that Bernard’s €412m Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend is worth less than €50m today, so there may be massive losses there also.
Paddy Shovlin was understood to be in the table of Top 20 NAMA developers, and NAMA says the developers occupying positions 13-30 in its league table owed an average of €674m when the loans were acquired by NAMA.
We know that Sean Dunne has, on his initial bankruptcy filing, indicated debts of €400-800m and assets of less than €7m. I can tell you now, that there is huge anticipation amongst an army of observers waiting for Sean Dunne’s statement of financial affairs in the US.
In most other cases, we just have snippets about loans outstanding, and we generally don’t have records of the assets that developers may have had to give up as part of the bankruptcy process. But if the loss is somewhere between 57%, the NAMA evaluation in November 2009, and 98%, Sean Dunne’s claimed position in 2013, then even if the 17 developers had NAMA debts of €100m and if there is a 75% write-off then we are looking at a total to date of over €5bn*. Yes, six of the 24 on the list might be natives of Northern Ireland, and Tom Kane is an American, but the majority are Irish who, for all intents and purposes, have lived and worked in Ireland during the boom when the debts were rung up.
So, on one hand, if you owe €300,000 in Ireland mostly secured on a home that is worth €150,000, the best you might expect from Minister Shatter’s new laws is a five year term of basic rations, after which you might see €50-100,000 written off. Meanwhile, at least 20 NAMA developers have seen an estimated €5bn+ written off, and in Sean Dunne’s case he may be discharged in as little as 120 days. The pat response from ministers in Ireland to suggestions of reducing the burden of the insolvency process is that it will encourage more people to seek debt writedowns from banks which we mostly own. But if it is acceptable to allow 20 people write off €5bn, what is the problem with allowing 30,000 people write off €150,000 each or a total of €4.5bn? And these are just the NAMA developers, we have pop stars, betting shop proprietors cum broadcasters and the less well-known upping sticks and filing for bankruptcy elsewhere leaving colossal debts behind in Ireland.
* John Fleming gross debts €1.1bn, Bernard McNamara estimated gross NAMA debts €1.8bn, Paddy Shovlin estimated gross debts €670m, Grehans gross €600m NAMA debts. Assume 75% write-off of gross debts ie 75% of (1.1bn+1.8bn+.67bn+.6bn)=€3.1bn plus Sean Dunne net debts €600m (mid point of liabilities range less €7m of assets), plus 17 developers at estimated average of €100m gross NAMA debt with 75% writeoff = €1.3bn.