Business Irish

Sunday 26 January 2020

Advisers to Nama in North 'had confidential information'

Frank Cushnahan
Frank Cushnahan
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Former Nama adviser Brian Rowntree has claimed external members of its Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC) did have access to confidential information.

Mr Rowntree's remarks at the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are in apparent contradiction with the agency's position that such information wasn't available to them.

The PAC is examining a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) that found Nama made a probable loss of £190m (€223m) in the sale of Nama's Northern loan book.

Nama rejected the findings.

Mr Rowntree also told TDs he was "surprised and shocked" to learn of the alleged 'fixer fee' to be paid to Frank Cushnahan and two law firms upon the successful sale of Project Eagle.

Mr Cushnahan has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Rowntree said he only learned of an alleged success fee when the matter emerged in the public domain.

He said while the C&AG report examined the value attained in the sale, a report should be compiled "that looks at issues of breach of corporate governance".

Mr Rowntree also said he believes that Nama "made every best effort to put in place a robust corporate governance framework".

He told TDs that external members of the NIAC had access to a document that amounted to confidential information on the property market in the North.

Mr Rowntree said a study by the University of Ulster on the future of Northern Ireland's property sector was "caveated with huge amounts of confidentiality agreements".

He said he wouldn't want to assume there was a breach of confidentiality.

But, he added: "If I was conducting a due diligence exercise on behalf of an intended buyer and I had that document - I'd be smiling."

PAC chairman Seán Fleming said Nama chairman Frank Daly previously stated that external members of the NIAC "did not gain any confidential information".

Mr Rowntree said the document was confidential in his view.

Mr Fleming suggested that Mr Daly was referring to confidential information about Nama debtors.

He agreed this was a possibility and added: "In fairness to Frank Daly that only becomes commercially sensitive if you breach the corporate governance provisions of the room and go outside."

Irish Independent

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