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Saturday 23 August 2014

Video: Laughing all the way to the bank at taxpayers' expense

Donal O'Donovan

Published 25/01/2013 | 05:00

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US billionaire David Tepper took on the State and won

IT'S the video that will drive hard-pressed Irish taxpayers crazy. It features US billionaire David Tepper bragging about beating the Irish Government's attempt to force his hedge fund to take a loss on investments in risky Bank of Ireland subordinated bonds back in 2011.

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In a grinning, often light-hearted interview with Bloomberg TV he even claims credit for the bank's return to the bond markets.

It's the first time an investor who held some of the 'subordinated' Bank of Ireland bonds that the Government tried to "burn" has described a legal battle to force the bailed-out bank to pay out.

Details of the scrap with Michael Noonan's Department of Finance emerged during an interview that covered everything from Mr Tepper's take on the US debt situation to breaking into song with a verse of ' Bye Bye Birdie'.

"You wanna hear a great credit story, I got a great credit story," he tells the mainly US audience before launching into his Bank of Ireland anecdote. (skip to 15:00 in video)

The grinning admission that he took on Ireland and won comes 15 minutes into the lengthy interview recorded earlier this week.

It will come as a shock after this country's apparent success in forcing losses on some lenders to the bust Irish banks.

The Government cut €14bn off the cost of bailing out the banks by making sure a share of the losses were borne by some investors that, like Mr Tepper, had loaned money to the banks in the form of relatively risky 'subordinated' bonds.

That was done by forcing most of the bondholders to sell back their bonds for a fraction of their official value.

A handful, including David Tepper's hedge fund Appaloosa, fought the orders.

Mr Tepper told Bloomberg that he baulked at attempts to "cram down" his bonds in favour of new investors in the bank back in 2011. He wasn't prepared to allow that, but would have been willing to take shares in the bank instead. He was willing to, "fight the Bank of Ireland, and fight the Irish Government for that matter."

His fund finally won at the beginning of this year, he said.

Mr Tepper and Appaloosa was able to bully the Irish government because of the hedge fund's huge size.

"You are the 800lb gorilla, you can do that. Ireland is a bigger gorilla than I am, they have big guys over there," Mr Tepper replies.

But when it comes to Ireland beating the subordinated bank bondholders, the Philadelphia-born hedge fund manager says he's the one that got away. David Tepper's personal wealth stands at $5.5bn, according to 'Forbes' magazine.

Irish Independent

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