Friday 19 January 2018

Frightening how little we will know about NAMA

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

ONE of the most frightening things about NAMA, apart from the €54bn price tag and the fact that we will be working until at least 68 to pay for it, is how little the taxpayer will know about what it does.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously refused court protection for three companies owned and controlled by Cork developer John Fleming whose Fleming Group has debts of €1bn.

Last November the High Court approved the proposed survival schemes for three Fleming companies which had hoped to ride out the property storm over a period of 10 years by keeping sites in a land bank in the hope that the property market would improve and that the banks would support a build out at some stage in the future.

But the 10-year hope strategy had been rejected by ACC Bank, owed €22m by the Fleming Group, which described plans to sell the profitable construction arm of the group to a new company as "asset stripping" and said the planned schemes amounted to "a personalised NAMA".

Yesterday, Mrs Justice Susan Denham helpfully deployed an analogy frequent fliers will identify with.

She said the proposals were not a plan for survival as going concerns and said the companies would be akin to three aircraft permitted to hover in the air for 10 years in the hope an upturn in the property market would mean that they will not end up as "scrappage".

The crucial difference between NAMA and examinership, which has been tried by Fleming and other former magnates such as Liam Carroll as they hover perilously in the air waiting for NAMA, is that the bad bank can wait for 10 years or more in the hope of an upturn.

Another crucial difference is that the NAMA air traffic controllers will be able to permit some planes to hover and deploy fighter jets to escort other more dangerous aircraft to ground zero safely behind the protection zone of "commercial sensitivity".

The public has been able to experience through a transparent judicial process the type of considerations NAMA will have to address when it decides if a borrower is viable or destined for bankruptcy. But we will never know why NAMA saved developer "a" or bankrupted developer "b" and assurances that the agency will not be exposed to lobbying ring hollow.

Irish Independent

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