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The Punt: Troubling signs for Bank of Ireland

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The Bank of Ireland headquarters in central Dublin

The Bank of Ireland headquarters in central Dublin

Former SAC Capital Advisors portfolio manager Mathew Martoma (R) arrives with his wife Rosemary at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse on February 4, 2014.

Former SAC Capital Advisors portfolio manager Mathew Martoma (R) arrives with his wife Rosemary at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse on February 4, 2014.

REUTERS

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The Bank of Ireland headquarters in central Dublin

WHO would have thought that a few signs could cause such a fuss? Bank of Ireland applied for planning permission to remove two reasonably unobtrusive existing signs at its former HQ on Dublin's Baggot Street and to replace them with four new back-lit signs. The bank still has a branch at the ground floor where the signs would be erected.

The HQ – a protected structure built in the 1960s – was bought in 2006 for €212m by a consortium led by former tax inspector Derek Quinlan. Receivers later took control of the building, which was then bought by beef baron Larry Goodman in 2012 for about €43m. The company he used to buy it is called Remley.

Bank of Ireland was initially told last year that Remley had no issue with the plan to change the signage. But earlier this year, Bank of Ireland's architects wrote to the council to inform it that Remley "have since reviewed the proposal and have changed their mind with regard to same".

Remley wanted the new signage to be further recessed and specified the type of material and style it wanted used. Remley indicated that it believed the signage the bank planned to use would "dominate the setting" and character of the entire building and set an "undesirable precedent".

The council has granted permission. The Punt is agog that a few signs could get everyone so exercised.

Conviction in Elan share probe

FEDERAL prosecutors have racked up a seventh conviction in their six-year probe of Elan shares, a hedge fund and billionaire founder Steve Cohen.

Jurors in a Manhattan federal court found ex-SAC Capital Advisors fund manager Mathew Martoma used secret tips on clinical trials of an Alzheimer's disease drug to trade Wyeth and Elan shares.

In doing so, the 39-year-old reaped a $275m (€202m) benefit for the fund.

Martoma chose to risk a trial after rejecting US offers of a deal for cooperation. He now faces up to 20 years in prison.

But as the jury forewoman read the verdict, tears welled in the eyes of his wife, who sat in the front row of the spectator benches behind her husband.

The couple, below, flanked by defence lawyers, walked out of the courtroom arm-in-arm, with Rosemary crying visibly.

The conviction follows a similar verdict against SAC Capital fund manager Michael Steinberg, who was convicted in December of a separate insider-trading scheme involving technology stocks from 2008 to 2009. He hasn't been sentenced and may yet seek to strike a deal with the US.

Aviation sector is flying high

Ireland's aviation sector was toasting itself this week. The Dublin Airport Authority said that figures from Airports Council International (ACI) showed that Dublin Airport was the second-fastest growing airport with its peer group from a passenger number point of view last year.

Dublin Airport recorded passenger growth of 6pc, bringing its tally for 2013 to 20.2 million. ACI counts Dublin as a 'Group 2' airport – one that handles between 10m and 25m passengers a year.

Berlin's Tegel airport was the best performing in that category, with growth of 7pc.

Meanwhile, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has launched the inaugural Aviation Industry Awards, which aims to reward individuals and businesses that have made an outstanding contribution to the sector.

IAA chief executive Eamonn Brennan said Ireland had "punched well above its weight" in global aviation, and indeed it has.

There are a whopping 18 categories in the awards, which will be dished out to winners in June after a shortlist is revealed in April.

Will certainly be interesting to see who gets nominated.

Irish Independent