Saturday 24 February 2018

PUNT: Pity those 'poor' bankers

The Punt likes to think we're up on who's who in corporate Ireland but must admit we were at a bit of a loss when it came to Brian Murphy.

Who? Who, indeed.

Well it turns out Mr Murphy is the best paid public servant you've never heard of. Okay, the best paid public servant The Punt has never heard of.

The former banker is head of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). It is one of the growing offshoots of John Corrigan's National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

The NDFA is the part of the NTMA – bear with us here – that advises state bodies when they need finance for development projects.

In reply to a Dail question, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said this week that Mr Murphy was paid €324,762 last year, including a basic salary of €297,000 and taxable benefits of €27,762. That, mind you, is after a voluntary pay cut of 15pc. Nice.

So who exactly is Mr Murphy?

He joined the NTMA in 2007 and took over as head of the NDFA in 2009. Before that he spent most of his career with Citibank in Ireland and the Middle East, and with ABN Amro in Sweden, Finland and Ireland.

So he's a banker!

In that case maybe we have the questions all wrong, and it's not a matter of why he's paid so much as how come he's paid so little?

Soldiers marching to own beat

YOU have to hand it to the Soldiers of Destiny, they are nothing if not astute readers of the public mind.

Take the party's finance spokesman, Michael McGrath.

It is the view of The Punt that Deputy McGrath is a smart cookie, untainted by being involved in previous disastrous Fianna Fail administrations.

His latest wheeze is to propose a bill slashing the pensions of fat-cat bankers by up to 40pc. And he has even produced a bill.

The awkwardly titled Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) (Amendment) Bill 2013 looks like a dry piece of work.

But it is short and contains some very populist proposals, including a cut in the annual pensions of 20pc for any bankers in state-rescued banks who get more than €100,000 a year.

A 40pc cut is proposed for bankers in covered institutions getting more than €200,000 a year in a pension.

Of course the pension schemes of AIB, Bank of Ireland, Irish Nationwide, Permanent TSB and Anglo would have collapsed if the State had not stepped in.

Deputy McGrath knows well that the Constitution would not allow a raid like that on the pensions of such a specific group.

But then the Soldiers of Destiny appear to be marching back into power, if the opinion polls are to be believed.

Attacking the obscene pensions of some of those who collapsed the banking sector will do the party no harm.

Hibernia a blast from the past

Remember Hibernia Foods? You'll be forgiven for not doing so.

The Irish food company, once a big success with a Nasdaq stock market listing to boot, went into receivership in 2003.

That move came days after attempts were made to oust its founder, Oliver Murphy, and chief financial officer, Colm Delves, from the firm. They secured injunctions preventing their dismissal.

Hibernia made and distributed brands such as Sara Lee and Entenmann's in Ireland and the UK under licence and employed as many as 2,000 people.

The company owed tens of millions of euro to lenders when it collapsed, and in the US a big class action suit followed. Hibernia's auditors – PwC – were also named in the case, and despite trying to get itself removed as a subject of the action, it failed.

As part of a settlement that saw the case against it dropped and, without admitting any liability, PwC agreed to pay $2.8m.

And why is all this relevant so long after the collapse?

The US Securities & Exchange Commission has just issued a notice saying that Hibernia Foods is delinquent in its periodic filings for not having filed any reports since 2003.

Good to see America's 'top gun' on regulatory matters, the SEC, is keeping on top of things.

Irish Independent

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