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Thursday 18 April 2019

Noonan is accused of 'rolling out the red carpet for vulture funds'

Michael Noonan
Michael Noonan
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has been accused of "rolling out the red carpet" for vulture funds buying up mortgages and other distressed assets.

And he has also been accused of snubbing advocacy groups for mortgage holders.

New figures show that officials in the Department of Finance met with private equity vulture firms 65 times in 2013 and 2014. Mr Noonan attended eight of these meetings.

But just five meetings were held with advocacy groups for mortgage holders - and the minister did not attend any of these, according to information released to Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath.

Data supplied in a Dáil answer to Mr McGrath shows the minister met with Texas-headquartered Lone Star three times last year.

The US vulture fund bought sub-prime lender Start Mortgages and a string of commercial loan books from State bad bank Nama.

Mr Noonan also met with US private equity group Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in 2014.

The previous year the minister was at two of the six meetings when his officials talked with US investment fund Apollo, where former Bank of Ireland boss Brian Goggin is an executive.

Mr Goggin was the chief executive of Bank of Ireland when it was bailed out by the State after a disastrous lending binge.

Finance officials had a number of meetings with unregulated funds that bought residential mortgage books in the last two years. Departmental officials met with private equity giants CarVal, Apollo Asset Management and Lone Star, groups that bid to buy portions of the IBRC mortgage books.

However, Mr Noonan was not at meetings his officials had with the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, the Free Legal Advice Centre, New Beginning and Brendan Burgess of Askaboutmoney.com.

Mr McGrath said: "Minister Noonan met eight times with private equity groups during 2013 and 2104, while failing to meet at all with advocacy groups for mortgage holders."

He accused the minister of "rolling out the red carpet" for vulture funds and ignoring mortgage holders in distress".

"The contrast could not be greater with how the red carpet is rolled out by his department for private equity and vulture funds, who are in many instances looking to profit from the very difficulties which mortgage holders are experiencing."

He said people whose mortgages were bought by an unregulated entity were living in fear of interest rate increases and aggressive legal action.

Defended

But a Department of Finance spokesman defended the meetings, which he said were arranged with a view to protect jobs.

"The issue of meeting potential investors to create jobs is separate to the issue of mortgage arrears," the minister's spokesman said.

He said the situation around mortgage arrears was a "legacy issue caused by the disastrous management of the economy by the last government".

He added: "There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all mortgages in arrears."

Irish Independent

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