Tuesday 21 November 2017

The Punt: Kept in dark on Setanta

Graham Norton earned €2.83m in fees last year
Graham Norton earned €2.83m in fees last year

Questions about who knew what and when in relation to Setanta Insurance are starting to mount up.

The insurer went bust last month, leaving 75,000 drivers without cover.

Now it has emerged that the Central Bank was first informed of problems in November of last year, according to Michael Noonan in the Dail.

Headquartered and regulated in Malta, Setanta said in January this year that it would stop taking new business and cease renewing existing policies.

But then came the bombshell last month when it said on its website that the operation was to be liquidated and claims may not be met.

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty asked Mr Noonan when the Central Bank first became aware the company was in trouble.

"The Central Bank have informed me that they have been in discussions with the Malta Financial Services Authority in relation to Setanta since November 2013 when the Central Bank identified issues during a consumer protection-themed inspection," Mr Noonan revealed. This led to regular contact between the Irish and Maltese regulators, he added.

The only role for the Central Bank here in relation to Setanta was to ensure it operated in line with "conduct of business rules". Essentially, that was ensuring it observed the consumer protection code.

Prudential regulation was carried out in Malta.

But surely protecting the consumer means more than knowing there are problems and saying nothing in public?

The Punt agrees with Pearse Doherty that the Department of Finance and Central Bank have questions to answer about why they did not keep customers informed.

 

Norton makes a pretty penny

The Punt likes Graham Norton but is the chat-show host really worth his salary? Norton earned a whopping €2.83m in fees last year. The popular presenter got presenter fees, production fees and royalties following on from the £2.6m he earned in 2012.

That same year, Norton shared £10m (€12m) up-front with his business partner Graham Stuart from the sale of their So Television company to ITV.

Norton receives the equivalent of €1,700 in fees and royalties for every minute he is presenting his show on BBC1. The fees received by Norton last year dwarf RTE’s top earners, with the most recent figures showing that Ryan Tubridy is the best paid, taking in €495,000 a year.

 

Muddying the waters again

Just what was Irish Water doing this week when it took to the airwaves to welcome the Government's decision on water charges?

Just a few short weeks ago, the company asked the independent regulator to impose a standing charge on all households, which would make up one-third of final bills. This would give a steady income stream of €160m a year – helpful when seeking to borrow on global markets for capital projects.

It's assumed that time, effort and energy was put into the proposal to the regulator. So why go out and welcome the Government's decision to rubbish it?

To compound matters, a spokesperson explained to the nation via RTE's 'Drivetime' that it didn't matter that the standing charge was gone, because the €160m would be factored into the cost per litre of water anyway – raising hackles across the country.

The Government has set out its policy in broad brushstrokes, with the regulator now tasked with implementing those directions and coming up with the charges.

But where was the regulator in all this? In their offices doing their sums, presumably. Where was Irish Water? Giving the public a taster of what to expect when charges come into force.

There appears to be some disquiet within government circles at the company's actions. The suggestion is they should have kept their nose out of the regulator's business.

Irish Independent

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