independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Why am I being punished? I was just a loyal employee of IBRC

PA

I WORK for IBRC. I joined the bank 15 years ago, it was more or less my first real job, having graduated with a BSc in Finance.

I loved my job then and I loved the bank. I worked through my lunch, stayed late, arrived early. I worked hard. It was a great place to work. My colleagues were my friends, my family and I believed the people at the top were special, talented and I aspired to be like them.

Everything began to change for me in 2008. When all the problems were disclosed, one by one, I felt as if a close relative had been accused of some repulsive act. And then the bank was nationalised and reality hit home.

I don't expect any sympathy for the financial loss I suffered as a result. I have sought forgiveness from the family and friends who I recommended the shares to. And, mostly, I think they accept that I didn't know but mostly we try not to talk about it.

2009 was a difficult year. As we were all vilified and abused in the media, by customers, and total strangers, the scales slowly fell from my eyes and I began to realise and accept that what I had been involved in for over 10 years was corrupt and shallow and toxic and ugly.

When the first redundancy scheme was announced, my husband begged me to apply but I refused. I told him to watch the videos of staff from Lehman Bros leaving their buildings after it collapsed. That should have been us. But the Irish Government stepped in and they saved my job and for that I am grateful.

I made a conscious decision then to stay and to do my best to protect the taxpayer's position and do what I could to repair the damage that had been done.

Since then, I believe I have contributed positively to what is an enormously difficult situation. I have not tried to string out the process for my own benefit but I have sought to wind down the book in an orderly fashion in accordance with the wishes of the Government.

I did not expect to be rewarded for doing so – it was the least the taxpayer could expect. But I did not expect to be punished for it.

The redundancy package agreed (by the Department of Finance and Finance Minister Michael Noonan) is not a bonus to be put in my back pocket or used to supplement some lavish lifestyle. It is compensation for losing my job, compensation for possibly not having a job for many months to come and it is money I need to pay my mortgage and feed my family.

Personally, I would prefer to have a job, but the legislation passed has also removed the possibility of my employment transferring to the new owner. So I wait. We all wait. We wait to find out who will do our jobs in NAMA, or Capita or perhaps another service provider. Will it be us? We wait, and we worry.

With the stress and distraction of what is happening to me personally I find it difficult now to focus or care at all about what the taxpayer needs. I need a job and I need to pay my bills so I must focus my efforts on that task.

The IBRC Act 2013 requires the Special Liquidator to carry out an independent valuation of every loan. If a third party offers to pay the valuation ascribed for a loan then it will be sold, if not it will transfer to NAMA at the valuation price.

Following our property boom we all know when you want to sell a house you need to make it as attractive as possible, work on your 'kerb appeal'. So you cut the grass, tidy the garden, brush the path, clean inside, finish all the little DIY jobs and generally make the place look good. If the preparation work is not done well the valuation and selling price will suffer, some estate agents will tell you it could make a difference of 10-15pc.

Well, imagine the house you're getting ready to sell is worth €16bn, the amount of money at stake (taxpayers' money) is €1.6bn-€2.4bn.

Those 'kerb appeal' principles also apply broadly to the sale or valuation of a loan book, but the key is the documentation. The Special Liquidators know the staff at IBRC are critical to that documentation – they know what the right documents are and where they are, they understand the intricate detail of the complex loans and what facts are relevant.

They are able to complete this task diligently, completely and in a timely fashion. But I have never known a group of people so demoralised. To have had their jobs and their promised safety net of redundancy snatched away so suddenly, has left the whole organisation in a state of shock. Is it surprising then that instead of focusing on maximising the valuation of the loan book, staff are focusing on finding a job?

The Special Liquidator is open to dialogue but says the minister must be involved. The minister says it would be inappropriate to intervene.

To put this into context, the Special Liquidator and Mr Noonan are attempting to avoid a redundancy programme (previously approved by the Department of Finance and the minister) which is expected to cost €16m.

There can be no justice for the taxpayer (morally or commercially) in the treatment of the remaining staff. But, there is a commercial solution and it can be implemented without prejudicing the rights of other creditors.

The staff need a resolution to this situation urgently and so does the taxpayer.

Irish Independent

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