Monday 27 February 2017

Project Eagle loan adviser 'was made to look like an eejit by Nama'

Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Patrick Long arrives at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Patrick Long arrives at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

The firm that advised Nama on the sale of its Northern Ireland loan book was treated like an "eejit" and a "patsy" prior to the €1.6bn property transaction, the Public Accounts Committee has heard.

Lazard, a key player in the sale of Project Eagle, was "kept in the dark" over details that were potentially highly significant to the sales process.

The allegations were made by Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald.

The hearings are examining the Comptroller and Auditor General's report (CAG) into the sale to US investment firm Lazard, the official sale adviser.

The firm's managing director, Patrick Long, accepted that he and his staff were not informed of key details in relation to the transaction.

These include the fact that another bidder, Pimco, pulled out of the bidding process after being asked to provide a fixer payment of £16m (€18m) for three parties that were involved in the deal.

The money was to be shared equally by Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick and Ian Coulter, a managing partner of Belfast solicitors firm Tughans, Pimco previously told the committee.

Mr Cushnahan was formerly a Nama adviser on Northern Ireland, on the recommendation of the Democratic Unionists. Brown Rudnick and Tughans also advised Cerberus on the successful deal. All parties have denied any wrongdoing.

During robust questioning, Ms McDonald claimed that Mr Long and his company "spectacularly lacked insights" as sales adviser.

Patsy

"Do you know the expression eejit? Nama made an eejit of you, a patsy," she said.

Mr Long insisted that his company always acted professionally and did the best job it could.

"We gave the best advice we could in knowledge we had at the time," he said.

Earlier, Mr Long acknowledged that there were "quite a lot of unusual features" in the sale process itself.

Read more: NAMA sale advisor treated like an "eejit" and a "patsy", TDs told

These included the fact there was just one round of bidding, the small number of participants and the relatively tight timeframe imposed by Nama.

While Mr Long said all of these aspects have been seen in previous sales processes, the combination of them made this particular process unusual.

Mr Long also admitted that his firm's contract with Nama was predicated on success fees.

"Success fees are commonplace… our fee was only payable on success," he said, adding that his firm was at all times impartial.

Irish Independent

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