Thursday 14 December 2017

Nama official takes up role at property adviser

New concerns over movement of toxic bank's former staff

VIGOROUS: Paul Hennigan has strongly defended his role
VIGOROUS: Paul Hennigan has strongly defended his role
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

A SENIOR official at Nama, who was involved in the management of one of the agency's major borrowers when they sold a prestigious London property for €172.3m, has gone to work as a partner for the company which represented the Malaysian buyers in the deal, it can be revealed.

An investigation has found that in 2011, Paul Hennigan – then a portfolio manager at Nama – participated in the process which saw investors David Arnold's and Deirdre Foley's D2 Private sell 11-12 St James's Square in London to a Malaysian wealth fund for £147.5m (€172.3m) following negotiations with a company called Prime London Partners (PLP). Mr Hennigan had been responsible for managing the portfolio of D2 Private as part of his duties with Nama.

Having been promoted within Nama to the role of senior asset-recovery manager in June of last year, Mr Hennigan left the agency on April 25 this year after three years during which he was involved in asset and debt sales amounting to €2bn.

Within weeks of his departure, he took up the position of partner with Prime London Partners, the company with which D2 Private negotiated when it sold 11-12 St James's Square to the Malaysian Employees Property Fund (MEPF).

While there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Mr Hennigan's part, it has already been reported that his new employer, PLP, is intent on extending its Irish interests. It is unclear what role, if any, Mr Hennigan will be asked to play in the company's mooted Irish expansion.

Contacted by this newspaper with questions on the extent of his involvement in the sale of 11-12 St James's Square in 2011 and his more recent decision to take up employment with PLP, Mr Hennigan said simply: "I have no comment to these questions." A spokesman for Nama also declined to comment.

A well-placed source familiar with the 2011 transaction stressed, however, that the price achieved in the sale of the St James's Square building had been "optimal", adding that in managing the D2 Private portfolio, Mr Hennigan had recovered 100 per cent of the debt owed, with interest.

This revelation today will invariably renew concerns in relation to the movement of former Nama employees to work for companies which may have an interest in acquiring the assets on its books.

Only two weeks ago, Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins expressed her disquiet in the Seanad in relation to Mr Hennigan's new role with PLP.

Having read of the former Nama official's career move in the Sunday Independent on May 26 last and raised it in the Seanad two days later, Ms Higgins told Finance Minister Michael Noonan when he appeared in the Seanad on June 11 that Mr Hennigan had left a voicemail on her constituency office phone in which, she claimed, he had tried to "silence" her.

"Would you please arrange for the removal of the highly offensive statement you have on your website? Unfortunately, you obviously have no understanding of the background to this. I might have to take legal matters [sic] into the insinuations you are making," Mr Hennigan's voicemail said.

Asked last week for comment on Senator Higgins's claim, Mr Hennigan said: "Having dedicated myself to Nama and the taxpayer for three years, despite the personal and financial cost to me and my family, it is grossly unfair, insulting and deeply offensive that a member of our Oireachtas, albeit unelected, attributes scandal to my ongoing contractual obligations to Nama and my current employment – both of which she quite clearly knows nothing about. It is my view [that] it is this type of manufactured and false hysteria that is preventing Nama retaining or attracting staff, ultimately to the detriment of the taxpayer."

Senator Higgins also told Mr Noonan of her more general concern at the movement of former Nama officials to positions with private firms which might have an interest in acquiring Nama-controlled assets and loans.

Mr Noonan pointed out that all past and present employees of Nama were subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and the NTMA and Nama Acts, which prohibited them from disclosing any of the confidential information they had handled at the agency.

Mr Noonan said Nama was "very conscious of the risk of potential abuse or misuse of information by staff who leave the agency," adding: "The Nama CEO recently noted that the best defence against such possible abuse or misuse of information is to ensure, as Nama does, that assets are openly marketed and subject to competitive sales processes."

Irish Independent

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