Thursday 18 October 2018

Dearbhail McDonald: Coy tipster gets hot under the collar of insurers

Insurance Ireland had great success with their ‘white-collar’ fraudster ad campaign
Insurance Ireland had great success with their ‘white-collar’ fraudster ad campaign
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

It is 15 years since the insurance industry launched an end-of-days advertising campaign, replete with dodgy looking characters wearing outsized, white neck-braces, to convince the public that insurance fraud is not a victimless crime, etc.

The campaign, and others that followed, were an outrageous success, prompting many a concerned neighbour to blow the whistle on their dishonest brethren. But what to do if it's an insurance industry scion that is perpetrating a fraud?

Word reaches me that one concerned entity has threatened to blow the proverbial whistle on a prominent Irish brokerage that allegedly engaged in financial malpractice that targeted policyholders and other stakeholders.

It is alleged by the would-be whistler that the well-known firm applied excessive fees and commission levies, altered claim histories and expects staff to "lie or withold information if they want to retain their jobs".

The letter, sent to a glittering array of insurers (as well as some of the firm's clients) outlines "disturbing and honest disclosures" about the firm and has caused something of a stir in the world of insurance.

It has also been forwarded to the Central Bank.

The tipster says it has begun a preliminary investigation with a view to making a protected disclosure - a white-collar whirl indeed.

Amazon takes the biscuit with another data centre

Amazon really does take the biscuit. The massive American tech company has just received planning permission to build a second huge data centre at the former Jacob’s biscuit site in Tallaght.

Things did not run so smoothly out west for Apple but that is how the cookie crumbles we suppose. Amazon’s 23,283 sq m data centre will be built next to a similarly sized facility that was recently completed at Belgard Road in the Dublin suburb on a site acquired by the US giant in 2014.

A recent Indecon report, commissioned by the tech giant, found that its investment in South County Dublin since 2011 has had a cumulative economic impact for the Irish economy in excess of €1.25bn and on average supported over 1,200 full-time jobs each year. The latest project is likely to see that increase by hundreds of millions of euro.

For Amazon, that is mere crumbs from the table.

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As Ireland gears up for the arrival of Pope Francis, pilgrims of another kind descended on Dublin’s Convention Centre this weekend for the Dublin International Tattoo Convention. Over 150 tattooists from around the world convened, days after the recognition, by the National Days Archive, of National Tattoo Removal Day — it’s National Soft Ice Cream Day today, in case you were wondering.

As tattoo popularity continues to rise (one in five of us sport them) so does tattoo regret, with an increasing demand for laser tattoo removal. Some 20pc of the tattooed regret the inky follies of youth. Which is all great news for one Irish startup, Fade Laser, that is catering for the ‘Rethink the Ink’ brigade. Founded by former management consultant Aidan O’Connell and fashion retailer Shauna O’Neill, the Grafton Street outfit boasts Colm Nagle, the former CFO of Heatons as one of its directors. Fade has seen a surge in referrals during the recent hot spell, proving that whilst fashions such as tattoos can be a cruel mistress, regret is a formidable master as well.

Bordering on the hilarious as Ross forgets the Six Counties

In a week filled with the usual Leaving Cert frenzy, minister Shane Ross might have struggled to get a H1 in history, geography or maths.

As guest of honour at Tourism Ireland’s mid-year results, the tourism and sports supremo started off well enough, highlighting the surge in the number of visitors from North America.

But Brexiting Brits remain a concern, with Ross telling the audience of journalists: “We need to defend our share in Britain which has been declining, and to reassure our important Great Britain visitors that  a warm welcome awaits them here, whatever the situation of Brexit.”

(Boss Leo hasn’t been helping on that score with Anglo-Irish relations a tad strained of late.)

But then the howler, when he announced that “research suggests that 80pc of bed nights occur in just five counties. That means we have huge numbers of opportunities — there are 21 counties left”.

Except, of course, that Tourism Ireland markets the whole of the island, established as one of the areas of co-operation in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Cue laughter from the hacks, and a quick about-turn on the podium.

“No, we’re talking Northern Ireland context,” Ross interrupted himself. “There are 32 minus five; there are 27 counties left to explore and exploit,” he said, for those in the audience who were numerically challenged.

In fairness it was a tough crowd, with most journalists eager to quiz him on hockey, sports, cycling infrastructure and VAT — just about anything but rising tourism figures.

* * * * *

Exciting news over at Falcon Oil & Gas, where plans to drill an exciting prospect in Australia have advanced to Stage 2 earlier than anticipated.

Falcon is run by ex-Providence Resources executive Philip O’Quigley. Based in Dublin and backed by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, it has also done a deal whereby its partner in the project has agreed to lift the amount it will spend without asking Falcon for cash.

The first well is due to be drilled next year.

A positive result would probably help swell Vekselberg’s collection of Faberge eggs, if the Russian were so minded.

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