Anglo investment arm sued by clients who lost millions
THE former Anglo Irish Bank has been hit with a barrage of legal cases from former clients of its private client unit, the Irish Independent has learned.
The cases relate to the arm of the bank that put together syndicates of wealthy individuals and families to invest in major commercial property deals during the boom.
As well as assembling the investors, Anglo provided loans to finance the deals and in some cases even bought properties to sell to its own clients.
Legal papers linked to more than a dozen separate actions have been filed at the High Court over the past two months, naming Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) Assurance as defendant.
While IBRC is the new name for Anglo, the Irish Independent understands that the cases relate to actions allegedly taken by the bank before it was nationalised.
IBRC Assurance is part of the state-owned bank's wealth management business which was involved in selling properties worth billions to groups of wealthy Anglo customers.
The "Assurance" was the part of the unit set up to handle investments made by the self-administered pension funds of wealthy clients. It is separately regulated by the Central Bank.
The timing of the recent spate of cases is driven by a statute bar that means legal action cannot be taken against the bank more than six years after an investment was originally sold.
It means unhappy investors who invested in late 2006 deals must file papers now or lose the right to sue.
The cases are understood to be mainly at an early stage and may not reach the courts for more than a year.
The bulk of the recent High Court papers have been filed on behalf of clients by two firms of Dublin solicitors, O'Grady Solicitors in Ballsbridge and LGK Ballagh in Glasthule.
Both firms declined to comment on the actions, as did a spokesman for IBRC.
During the boom the Anglo unit set up as many as 50 funds to invest in property deals, many of which have gone sour.
In one high-profile case clients of Anglo invested close to €100m of the €390m used to buy the Woolgate Exchange office block in London.
Their investment was wiped out when the office block was sold for €330m earlier this year. The bank managed to claw back some of its own losses when it sold a loan backing the deal to the new owners.
Of the current batch of actions, it is thought that a number relate to cases where Anglo bought property in its own name then sold the assets to private banking clients who were provided with loans to finance the deals.
High net worth clients of the assurance unit typically invested €1m to €2m to participate.
It means some clients have seen their investments wiped out because of falling property prices, but they remain on the hook for loans to IBRC.