Tuesday 24 October 2017

Nick Webb's diary: Matheson's top lawyer, Western Union and the troubling €1.75m fine

Peter Sutherland
Peter Sutherland
Lord Patten of Barnes
Kofi Annan
Javier Solana
Romano Prodi
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Last week, the Central Bank fined Western Union Payment Services Ireland a whopping €1.75m because major failings in its anti-money laundering practices could have left the group's payment services open to being used for terrorist financing or for money laundering.

This was jolly embarrassing for Western Union, its advisers and its board. One of the board members of the company is John Ryan, a top, top corporate lawyer at Ireland's second law firm, Matheson. Ryan heads up Matheson's New York office and has served on a number of multinational boards. He became a director of Western Union Payment Services Ireland in November 2009. It's especially cringeworthy as Matheson makes big money from advising the State on all things financial, picking up close to €1m in fees from the Department of Finance in 2012/13.

The law firm knows plenty about money laundering, having hosted a client seminar in March 2013 to discuss the practical implications of recently published anti-money laundering legislative proposals. Brendan Nagle of the Central Bank's anti-money laundering unit was the guest speaker. Western Union told me last week that it was working to "enhance" its systems.

Peter Sutherland and the big oil A-listers

Former AIB chairman and Attorney General Peter Sutherland stepped down from his role as chairman of Goldman Sachs last week to concentrate on humanitarian issues for the UN.

But “Suds” hasn’t completely retired. He also chairs the rather little known International Advisory Board for oil major BP. Sutherland had chaired the FTSE-listed company before stepping down in 2009.

“Issues discussed during the year included emerging geopolitical issues which could impact BP’s business, developments in Russia, the Middle East and North Africa, the liberalisation of Mexico’s oil and gas sector and the US mid-term election cycle,” according to BP.

Membership of the BP IAB last year included former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, Lord Patten of Barnes, former White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, former EC president Romano Prodi, former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo and ex-Nato chief Javier Solana. Wow. The oil industry has a scary amount of clout.

Former Coke boss has Epic plans for his IFSC centre

Former Coca-Cola boss Neville Isdell is making the biggest private investment in Irish tourism for decades, his stepbrother Mervyn Greene told me last week.

Downpatrick-born Isdell, who ran Coke from 2004 to 2008, spent €10m buying the CHQ retail centre in Dublin’s IFSC from the doomed semi-state Dublin Docklands Development Authority in 2012. He also looked at buying Weston Airport and the Veterinary Hospital site in Ballsbridge, later bought by the Comer brothers. Greene is running the revitalisation of CHQ, which has become a start-up magnet through its hosting of Dogpatch.

But the big push is for the €12m ‘Epic’ museum for the diaspora, which will be built in the vaults. The team that put together the hugely successful Titanic museum has been hired en-masse to put together an attraction that will bring in 400,000 visitors per year. It’s coming together nicely.

Goodman’s guys win big at business quiz

The guys over at Larry Goodman’s beef empire ABP Food Group must be reading our pages from cover to cover every week, because they certainly know their business trivia.

Their team took first place at this year’s Business Journalists Association Corporate Challenge - essentially a giant table quiz - in Dublin on Thursday.

They fended off stiff competition from the likes of BT, Eircom, DAA, Heineken and Carlyle. Business hacks were dotted around the room to help bring everyone’s scores down. ABP won by a hare’s breath in a winner-takes-all lightning round, correctly answering a question on the size of the Vatican city in acres (it’s 110 acres, who knew). The event raised €48,000 for Simon.

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