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Archive for April 4th, 2013

NAMA has settled a lawsuit brought by a former employee of a golf resort development in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. James Vanden Berg who was the CEO of the Barber Creek Land Company which was developing the Georgia Club, had been suing to recover USD 2.1m (€1.6m) in bonuses he claimed he was owed; he sued Anglo and others including NAMA and lost at the District Court in North Georgia, and appealed the judgment to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A document jointly lodged by the parties last week informs the appeal court that the matter has been settled, with each side bearing their own costs of dealing with the appeal. The terms of any settlement have not been revealed. The document filed in the appeal court is available here.

The Georgia golf resort was a Derek Quinlan development.

For conspiracy theorists out there, you might be interested to know that a “James Vanden Berg” was the principal of a company called “Lunch Properties LLLP” which was one of five companies which wanted to develop property in the foothills over Santa Monica on the Californian coast. The development is most associated with The Edge from U2, aka David Evans and Paddy McKillen’s son, Dean McKillen. The five companies, all of which are (L)imited (L)iability (L)imited (P)artnerships or LLLPs are Lunch, Vera, Morleigh, Mulryan and Ronan. No connection between Sean Mulryan and Mulryan LLLP and between Johnny Ronan and Ronan LLLP, has ever been established, though the choice of names piqued interest.

The development of ultra-up-market homes in the Santa Monica foothills was repeatedly knocked back by planning authorities, despite The Edge having a website designed to promote the eco- and aesthetic credentials of the development.

We don’t know if the Georgia golf resort James Vanden Berg is the same “James Vanden Berg” the project manager at Lunch LLLP.

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We are expecting a comprehensive list by the end of this week, but the partial leaking of lists of directors and shareholders of companies in the secretive offshore tax, banking and corporate-regulation haven of the British Virgin Islands has already caused waves with the campaign manager for French president Francois Hollande being forced to reveal his business relationship with a Chinese partner, and a Mongolian politician saying he might have to resign. The partial and full lists are/should be, available here.

But in Ireland, we know that the BVI has been a destination of choice for Irish property developers, as well as businessmen and women generally. After all, its (hitherto!) secrecy and tax regime have been attracting such titans of Irish business as the (Sean) Quinn family and Ray Grehan. A BVI registered company is after NAMAed Paddy Kelly, now in Florida. There is nothing illegal or untoward about incorporating BVI companies, but there are long-held suspicions that the secrecy provided by the BVI has been abused. You cannot generally find out the shareholders, directors or financial information of companies incorporated in the BVI, it’s all hidden behind nominees like BVI solicitors. This leaking has changed all that.

The Revenue Commissioners and NAMA will be just two state agencies chomping at the bit to get their hands on the lists which might expose omissions in tax returns and disclosures of assets. NAMA has already reported two developers to the Gardai, apparently for false statements made in connection with business plans, which you might recall required developers (and sometimes their spouses) to provide sworn affidavits. NAMA has engaged lawyers in the BVI previously.

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NAMA is launching legal action in Dublin’s High Court at a rate of one application per week in 2013. Yesterday, it initiated a case against Pedleigh Limited, case reference 2013/1048 S. The applicant is National Asset Loan Management Limited and the cretins at the Court Service shows its solicitor-on-record as “Natioanl (sic) Asset Management Agency”. As is usual with recently-filed cases, there is no solicitor-on-record for the respondent.

Assuming the Pedleigh Limited in question is an Irish incorporated company – and it should be stressed that we do not absolutely know that for a fact and neither NAMA nor the Court Service will confirm the address or identity of parties to a case – then it is the Dublin company owned by Messina Investments Limited which is in turn owned by Fenbrook Holdings Limited which is owned by Albert Farrell (35%), Robert Ball (35%), Catherine Farrell (15%) and Celine Ball (15%). To repeat, we DO NOT absolutely know for sure that this is the “Pedleigh Limited” in the NAMA application.

So far this year, NAMA has launched 13 actions in Dublin’s High Court and has been on the receiving end of 14, though 12 of those relate to deposits on the one Portugese golf and holiday resort.

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It might be the 100 year anniversary of the 1913 Lockout, but staff at Irish Bank Resolution Corporation are really tempting fate with their refusal to work on loans that may eventually be transferred to NAMA.

You’ll recall that Noonan’s Grand Plan for IBRC is that, having appointed KPMG as special liquidator in February 2013, there is now a 6-month window when KPMG has to flog as much of IBRC’s assets as possible but at no less than the independent valuation of those assets, the valuation now taking place.

What is left at the end of the six months will mostly go to NAMA, and August 2013 has been mooted as the month in which the transfers to NAMA will take place. NAMA has appointed British outsourcing giant, Capita as point-man to manage the loans it is acquiring from IBRC and has also issued tenders for loan service administrators, all in preparation of ultimately acquiring the unsold rump of IBRC’s assets.

It is unclear what work NAMA is now doing at IBRC to acquire assets. Surely KPMG should be given the field to do its job and sell as much of the assets as possible.

But, what is clear is the 800 staff at IBRC are angry with their redundancy terms. Most are facing the chop imminently and are employed on month-to-month contracts.  Because IBRC is massively insolvent, the 800 staff will get statutory redundancy of 2 weeks of pay per year of service (capped at €600 per week) plus an extra week on top at the end – eg 5 years of service now earning €65,000 will get 5yrs * 2 weeks * €600 plus one week of €600 or a total of €6,600.

The staff union, the Irish Bank Officials’ Association (IBOA)  believes that it has a prior deal with IBRC which provides for four weeks of pay per year of service. There is no mention of a €600 weekly cap either.

And now the union is stepping up a campaign to force IBRC to increase the redundancy payments. According to a statement on the IBOA website “commitments that the Government made to staff must be honoured” and it is understood from reports in the old media that workers are threatening not to work on assets bound for NAMA.

Unbelievably, every political party and members of the technical group are offering their support to the bank workers. They point out that the workers affected here are not the fat cat bankers that were at the top when lack of governance by the previous administration failed to stop the catastrophic ballooning in credit which led to the crash.

If ever there was a moral case in favour of a lockout, IBRC in 2013 is it. Remember Vita Cortex?

Workers at Vita Cortex had to occupy a freezing factory in Cork for nearly half a year to win 2.9 weeks per year of service and in the end it was the private sector, in the guise of Jack Ronan, which stumped up the difference. Here, you have workers in the most failed business in Ireland ever, demanding 4 weeks per year of service and the additional sums will not come from the private sector, but from the rest of us.

Brazen.

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It was reported by Bloomberg yesterday that the stalled Haymarket development in Edinburgh is finally moving ahead after a “deal was struck” between one of the UK’s biggest construction companies, Interserve and our own NAMA. The development in the heart of Edinburgh was originally a Tiger Developments project, Tiger Developments being part of NAMA Top 10 developer, Michael O’Flynn’s group. The development will include an hotel, offices and shops and will initially generate 250 jobs but in the long term, it is predicted it will sustain 3,500 new jobs.

It is reported that Interserve will imminently spend GBP 10.5m (€13m) of what is likely to be a GBP 150m (€175m) project.  Interserve is partnering up with Tiger Developments in the delivery of the project. It remains unclear what “deal was struck” between Interserve and NAMA, it might mean NAMA is funding the development or it might mean NAMA is selling the Tiger Developments loan – the site was originally acquired with a GBP 40m loan – or it might mean something else. Neither NAMA nor O’Flynn Construction had responded to a request for comment at time of writing.

Tiger Developments is quoted as saying yesterday “Throughout the planning process we have worked hard to develop our proposals in line with the needs of the city and the local community…Our team has devoted a significant amount of time and energy so far in designing a scheme which now represents the best solution for this challenging site…So far we have received significant commercial interest in the site from a wide range of UK operators, on top of the existing tenants already signed up…We are now looking forward to working closely with our development partners Interserve to finally give the Haymarket area the high quality of mixed-use development which it so richly deserves”

If this is a NAMA funding project, then it will take a fair lump out of the €2bn investment funding announced by the Agency last year.

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