PAC Meeting | Oct 1, 2015
National Asset Management Agency executives called and examined
Deputy John Deasy: I will be brief, as this has been a long day. I wish to ask the witnesses about Project Eagle. It is an important question because of what has happened since regarding the reputation of NAMA and the potential damage to public trust in NAMA as this matter has continued. Mr. [Frank] Daly has made clear that when the agency found out that Mr. Cushnahan was to have taken a fee, it stepped in quickly, I think Mr. Daly said within a day and a half, and it considered the exit of PIMCO and consulted Lazards.
I take it from this that Mr. Daly felt that the integrity of NAMA's process was still intact and that it should continue. In hindsight, was that a bad decision and has that caused damage to NAMA, to NAMA's reputation and how the agency is perceived? Mr. Daly himself talked about Cicero's quote, "who benefits?", and about the people who tried to damage NAMA by leaking information such as failed bidders or underbidders. However, it is not only people who leak information to damage NAMA who are involved in this regard; it also is NAMA's decision-making process and this must be thought about.
Should NAMA have considered this in greater depth at the time? Did NAMA discuss it sufficiently? Should it have stepped out of this process? Having given some thought to that question at this point, one journalist framed this issue by suggesting NAMA has lost the narrative and there may be some truth to that. However, it stems from the decision made to continue with the process after NAMA found out the individual in question was taking a fee. Consequently, it comes back to Mr. Daly and the decisions he has made or rather, not him personally but the decisions NAMA's board has made. Was that a mistake and in hindsight, was its correct to proceed with this or should NAMA have stopped the process when it had the chance? Have the witnesses considered this point in the interim?
Mr. Frank Daly (Chairman, NAMA): First, we always consider these things at the time and we continue to consider them. There has been a lot of consideration of this issue in NAMA. The damage, if there is damage, has been driven quite a bit by the conflation of issues that have emerged after the sale with the actual sale process itself. There has been huge conflation of issues in this regard and if the Deputy considers what the Northern committee is investigating, it by and large is focused on issues that arose after the sale on the purchase or the buying side.
Once the word "NAMA" is mentioned anywhere in a narrative, certainly down here, the message or narrative gets a little garbled and misunderstood. I accept that point. As to whether damage has been done to NAMA, there are different constituencies out there. As for NAMA's standing with the investor community, the markets, the rating agencies or with many of those people who think through these things and look behind the headlines, I do not believe NAMA's reputation has been damaged and I do not think it has in any way compromised our capacity and ability to do our job. I do not wish to go back over the entire narrative or discussion on the decision-making process at the time. It was not something we did not consider - whether we should just abort the sale. We weighed up the pros and cons and, in essence, we still had two competitive bidders in there for this. We had exited the one of which we thought there would be reputational or perceptional damage if it had continued. We still got our reserve price. We still believe we got a very good deal on this.
We always would examine our decisions both with hindsight and at the time. One thing we did learn from this, and one change we have made, is that we now always ask for a declaration from whoever is buying any portfolio that there is no success fee or any money payable to anybody connected with NAMA. We pitch that very widely, whether it be a board member, an advisory committee member or a member of the executive or staff. We get declarations from them.
I do not think I mentioned that this morning, although it has been mentioned before, that when Cerberus bought the Northern Ireland portfolio, it gave us such a declaration because we insisted on that after the PIMCO issue. Cerberus has assured us then and since, in terms of any payments it made as a result of the Project Eagle sale, that it stands over those payments as being legitimate and that it is not in any way in contravention of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the states, which is something it takes very seriously as a US-based company. Cerberus stands over that very strongly to this day.