After a financial year most of us would like to forget, Nick Webb and Tom Lyons relive some of the most cringeworthy moments of 2012 for Irish business
IT was a year of truly monumental howlers. There were some epic failures of judgement and more horrendously embarrassing cocks-up in corporate Ireland during 2012. So hide under your duvet and share the pain of some of the biggest names in business who fell flat on their faces over the last year.
Estate agent Savills prostrated itself in front of the Haughey family following a truly bizarre claim it made over the sale of the former Taoiseach's house in Kinsealy, Co Dublin.
In its sales brochure for the €7.5m valued house, Savills wrote that Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi had stayed with the Haugheys at Abbeville.
Er... oh, no he didn't. There are no records that Gaddafi ever visited Ireland, let alone stayed in Charlie Haughey's old house. The estate agent fessed up to the howler and said sorry to the Haughey family.
Starbucks and Twitter
There was always going to be trouble with Twitter this year. Ranelagh restaurant Cinnamon apologised to one of its customers after a member of staff referred to a disgruntled customer as an "a***hole" on the social media site.
Our favourite one was Starbucks though. In June a tweet from the coffee chain's Irish twitter account read: "Happy Hour is on! Show us what makes you proud to be British for a chance to win!"
Cue understandable outrage about the multinational's clear lack of geographic skills. The tweet trended for several hours before it was taken down by Starbucks, which later apologised.
Sean Quinn Jnr on video
Always watch out for hidden cameras when dealing with mysterious Ukrainians. That was the lesson that was harshly learnt by the family of the former billionaire Sean Quinn.
Both Sean Quinn Jnr and Peter Darragh Quinn were badly caught out when they were secretly videoed plotting how to frustrate the dastardly taxpayer-owned bank IBRC. Among the choicer quotes by Petey made to his former business pals in Kiev were: "I would have to lie... that wouldn't overly worry me."
It was embarrassing, credibility-busting stuff, for the family who spent a lot of the past 12 months under oath in the courts.
Nike's Black and Tan runners
Do Nike staff not have Google? A quick squint on the internet would have perhaps persuaded Nike that the phrase 'Black and Tan' was not the greatest name for a new sneaker. It was to be released in time for St Patrick's Day.
Red faces, then, with Nike distancing itself from the furore, saying the product "has been unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive. We apologise. No offense was intended".
Advertising watchdog barks up the wrong tree
The Club Orange 'Best Bits' advertisement featuring extremely large-bosomed women trying to sell fizzy drinks was always going to get a response.
A billboard campaign featuring two large oranges subsequently fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland.
In September, the ASAI reprimanded C&C over the content of the advert.
Unfortunately, C&C didn't own Club Orange any more, having sold it to Britvic some years ago. Cringe. The ASAI was forced to issue a grovelling apology.
The European bank deal
Everything would be sorted. It was a "game-changer". The banks would be recapitalised and we'd be able to separate the banking and sovereign debt. Ireland was fixed.
Er... by September, things were beginning to get less clear.
The deal was still imminent but just not as imminent as it had been. It'd be sorted by the end of October. Then it was November. And now it's sometime in 2013. Angela Merkel and other euro leaders are pretending it doesn't really exist. Enda and Noonan are looking rather uncomfortable.
Philip Marley's sun tan
Philip Marley, the student accommodation entrepreneur, and his new girlfriend, reality television star Dana Wilkey, spiced up the business pages big time in the past year.
Less enticing for his former business partners who are suing the Dubliner is his use of the company credit card while running a student accommodation business in London.
Among his choicer expense bills was a $6,000 (€4,500) trip to Las Vegas, frequent trips to tanning salons and £7,000 (€8,500) on mystery medical treatments from a Mayfair pharmacy.
For anybody else the payments might have been embarrassing, but not so Marley. He provided some of the finer quotes in response: "Vanity is important for a CEO. The trouble with a lot of Irish CEOs is that they look crap." That's telling them.
Mick Wallace's taxes
His dress sense was not the only embarrassing thing in 2012 about mop-headed builder-turned-politician Mick Wallace. Having appeared like a leftie do-gooder it emerged last year that he was actually a tax cheat who had under-declared €1.4m of VAT in his construction company.
The shamed Wexford TD said he would give up half of his Dail salary to try to repay the money he withheld from the taxman. He would have to serve 87 years as a backbencher at that rate to repay the money he owes.
By that time, he'd even have beaten Enda Kenny's record for languishing in the Dail backwaters.
If you ever wanted a textbook example of how to do almost everything wrong, there's no better place to look than the Ulster Bank IT debacle.
The bank's overall IT and computer system crashed in June during an overhaul, leaving Irish customers in the lurch. Then it emerged that the problem was far bigger than had previously been revealed.
It got worse. Irish customers were shunted to the back of the queue as Ulster Bank's owner RBS waffled about legacy issues on their IT system meaning that British customers had to have their accounts fixed first.
Close to half-a-million customers were affected, with many left without cash or working accounts for more than two weeks. The bank's poor communications and fidgeting over whether the top brass still deserved bonuses left a bad taste.
In September, the bank announced that hundreds of thousands of customers would get a €25 compensation payment each.
Eircom laptops go missing
Eircom held the personal details of more than 7,000 mobile phone and broadband customers on three laptops which were stolen in February.
Two of the laptops weren't encrypted when stolen from offices in west Dublin.
The massive data protection howler got worse when it emerged that some of the laptops contained the highly confidential banking details of some customers. The telecoms company initiated a major trawl of its IT equipment to make sure that laptops and other devices were fully encrypted following the snafu.
HSE and tax
While Minister for Health James Reilly's own business dealings had to be viewed from behind a sofa following the judgement published in Stubbs Gazette, his health service wasn't faring much better.
Spiralling over-runs at the HSE were compounded by revelations that the State agency had cocked up its tax returns. A Revenue audit uncovered underpayment of tax leading to a mega €100,000 settlement with the taxman.
Dolmen's €20,000 fine
Stockbroker Dolmen was hit with a €20,000 fine in December over its failure to report a suspicious transaction under market abuse regulations.
This serious breach of rules took place in April some months before the stockbroking firm was taken over by major US financial services firm Cantor.
Overcharging at the AIB and Permanent TSB
The taxpayer owns both AIB and Permanent TSB. The banks revealed that they had unfortunately been overcharging the bejaysus out of their customers.
In December, it was revealed that the Permo had coughed up €4.3m in refunds to 838 customers who had been overcharged since 2009. Another €3.1m was paid out by AIB to 11,500 customers who had been overcharged for payments under insurance policies. That's a combined €7.4m in cock-ups by two State-owned banks. Obviously nobody's fault though.
Big Phil's penthouse
Phil Hogan, the man in charge of the household charge, hit the foot-in-mouth jackpot last April when it emerged he was refusing to pay service charges on his penthouse apartment in Portugal.
"Would you pay a charge if you were unhappy with the service?" he memorably asked.
The cabinet big-guy whose apartment is in sunny Villamoura in the Algarve, really has a way with words that reminds the public why they need to tighten their belts and accept austerity.
Developer thug Tom McFeely earned the nickname Raging Bull as he threw himself about like a befuddled clown.
The bankrupt developer constantly lost the rag last year while at the same time moaning about his self-inflicted misfortune. The former IRA man tried to gain sympathy by saying he was being picked on by "bigots" in the "gutter-press".
The reality is McFeely is getting it in the neck because he sold families firetrap homes.
Nama's lack of secrecy
When liberating top-secret information from the National Asset Management Agency, try not to leave an email paper trail that leads to your wife.
The revelation earlier this year that a key employee of Nama, Enda Farrell, had done just that was hugely embarrassing.
The State property bank which prides itself on secrecy was shown to be more than a little lax when keeping important information under wraps.
Farrell didn't take up his job in the private equity group he hoped to join post-Nama and his wife too resigned from her job in Ernst & Young.
Gabriel and the Gathering
Gabriel Byrne caused a big stir when he lashed into the Gathering, a wheeze dreamt up to bring all of Ireland's emigrants home to spend their money in our hotels and restaurants.
Gathering project director, Jim Miley, a Fine Gael pal and former boss of boom-time property website MyHome.ie, was quick to lash back. And well he might, as it later emerged he was on a salary of €168,000 a year to organise the shindig.
Burton's salmon sambo
She got it wrong, however, when her department spent €5,000 on a staff knees-up just weeks before letting rip in the Budget. The taxpayer-funded bash saw civil servants dig into smoked salmon sandwiches, fish goujons and chicken satay on our dime.
We even had to pay €1,000 for "spot prizes", to ensure the party went with a zing. One to file in the drawer marked insensitive.
ESB's free nicotine
The bright sparks in the heavily trade-unionised ESB have a cushy number that is unimaginable to the rest of us. Last year, it emerged that the ESB spends our money supplying its staff with nicotine patches to help them give up the smokes.
Sure they could hardly be expected to pay for them themselves, could they?
The poor dears, on top of being paid way more on average than everybody else, are also pretty much unsackable. It's all a long way from their customers, many of whom are now struggling to pay their bills.
HSBC's Iranian deal
The scandal of America's investigation into HSBC's concealing of transactions with Iranian banks managed to drag in two of Ireland's new banking elite.
AIB chairman David Hodgkinson and Nama adviser Michael Geoghegan were both mentioned in the eye-brow-raising report of the US senate into their former employer HSBC's dealings with Iran. Both men denied any wrongdoing.
The hullabaloo was embarrassing for both men, however, as their new employers strive to maintain their squeaky-clean image.
The three-kitchen house
Solicitor and property investor Brian O'Donnell and his wife Dr Mary Patricia spent much of 2012 slugging it out in the courts in a bid to be allowed go bankrupt in the UK, as the British regime is far less onerous than the Irish one.
The court heard how the cash-strapped O'Donnells were living in a listed eight- bed home in Westminster. The home has a swimming pool and three kitchens. It is owned by a Swiss-based trust, set up for the O'Donnell's children.
In December, Mary Patricia O'Donnell told the court they had been unable to find a tenant willing to pay £4,000 per month in rent for the magnificent property.
In court, BoI representatives asked Dr O'Donnell if the rent was "absurdly low". She retorted: "It isn't absurdly low, and I'll tell you why. We couldn't rent it out for £4,000 a month. It is very hard to rent properties at high prices."
In December, the court ruled that they couldn't go bankrupt in the UK.
"I am afraid that I cannot regard Mr O'Donnell as a frank, or even a wholly truthful, witness," Justice Newey said in his written judgement.
In November, we heard that the hairier Treasury Holdings founder Johnny Ronan had objected to the Rowan Gillespie sculpture climbing up the side of his Treasury office block on Grand Canal Street.
Initially the sculpture was to be a naked man climbing up the side of the building. Until Ronan intervened. Gillespie said "there was no way he wanted a naked man climbing up the wall to his window". The sculpture was given a sex change and became a naked woman.
The Treasury building is also Nama's headquarters.
One51's sale of ICG
Wow! Talk about getting your timing horribly wrong.
As part of a sale of non-core assets and restructuring, investment and waste firm One51 moved to offload its stake in ICG, which it had amassed as part of a loony takeover approach back in the boom. In mid-June it sold its 3.1 million shares, with ICG trading close to €15 per share, netting over €46m. Ten weeks later, ICG announced a mega tender offer for shares, priced at €18.50 each. One51's stake would have been worth nearly €11m more had it just held on for another few weeks.