Monday 26 September 2016

The 'special liquidator' who is never short of work

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Mr Wallace was named 'special liquidator' of the firm in February 2013
Mr Wallace was named 'special liquidator' of the firm in February 2013

If you thought the name Kieran Wallace was familiar when he cropped up as liquidator of Clerys, then you weren't the only one.

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Mr Wallace, who is a partner with the accounting firm KPMG, is one of a handful of who specialise in perhaps one of the most difficult, and unpleasant, jobs in the accountancy world: the restructuring, or controlled wind-down, of failing companies.

Mr Wallace, along with his colleague Eamonn Richardson, has acted as receiver, examiner or liquidator over dozens of companies since the crash.

Usually, Mr Wallace is called in to restructure a business and then sell it on, or wind it down. These can be short-term jobs, or they can take years.

The firms he has presided over read like a who's who of Irish business: Thomas Crosbie Holdings - the former owner of the 'Sunday Business Post' and 'Irish Examiner', Custom House Capital, Bloxham Stockbrokers, Superquinn.

And those are just some of the best known ones, never mind the dozens that would not be familiar to the general public.

Of course, none of those are on the same scale as the liquidation of IBRC - the former Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide. Mr Wallace (below) was named "special liquidator" of the firm in February 2013.

Since then he and his team have been diligently running down the business, selling off loans and other assets in an effort to get the best price possible for the taxpayer.

Inevitably, though, for someone as connected as Mr Wallace, the IBRC liquidation has thrown up the thorny issue of perceived conflicts of interest many times.

For a start, KPMG was the auditor of Irish Nationwide back in the good days.

Mr Wallace was not involved in the auditing Irish Nationwide, and huge firms such as KPMG pride themselves on internal "Chinese walls" that keep different parts of the company separate, thus avoiding any conflicts.

Still, he has been forced to defend the decision to not to sue KPMG for its apparent conduct as auditor of Irish Nationwide.

More recently, he has found himself in the middle of the controversy around the sale of Siteserv's assets.

When that company was sold, some of the €45m received for the business was paid to Siteserv shareholders even though IBRC suffered a €105m loss on the deal. Just under €5m was paid to Siteserv shareholders, a payment that was authorised by Siteserv's liquidator: Kieran Wallace.

Mr Wallace's role in Siteserv was prior to, and separate from, his role as special liquidator of IBRC.

There is no suggestion whatsoever of any wrongdoing by Mr Wallace in any of his roles as liquidator, but it does show just how wired into the Irish business landscape he is these days.

Mr Wallace has worked at KPMG since 1999, and one presumes KPMG is more than happy to hang on to him.

As one of the highest profile accountants in the country, he brings huge value to the KPMG brand. Top-level receivers like Mr Wallace can charge up to €500 per hour.

Irish Independent

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