Ireland's notification to the European Commission

I was interested in some FOI work that Deputy Joan Burton had been doing lately on Anglo Irish Bank, so I contacted her and asked for any documents or refusals she had received. She was kind enough to copy everything and post them down to me. I have now scanned and OCRd the documentation.

First up is Ireland’s notification to the European Commission surrounding the injection of €1.5bn of capital into the bank. It runs to over 50 pages and contains some curious stuff. Many of the handwritten notes are I believe by Deputy Burton herself, or her staff. But there are other curious oddities, some of which are highlighted.

Firstly the document appears to have been poorly redacted. There are strikethroughs throughout the document with notes afterwards such as “[Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]”. What appears to have happened is that a draft of the document was released, rather than a redacted version. The draft contains the internal notes around what should or should not be redacted. One gem (and this is dated January 2008) is “Anglo Irish Bank is considered a fundamentally sound institution”. With a note beside saying it might be “commercially sensitive” to say so.

Not alone that, but further down it says (with a line through it)

The assessment by Merrill Lynch supports the position that Anglo Irish Bank is fundamentally sound.[Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]

Another gem which was marked for redaction, marking points arguing in favour of capital injection:

The assessment that there was a low likelihood that Anglo Irish Bank would be successful in raising additional equity from existing shareholders and new private investors Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]

Also this very interesting paragraph around future planning:

As noted above, on account of Anglo Irish Bank’s specific business model, which is specialised in commercial property lending and property development finance, not all of the elements of the agreed credit package will directly impact on Anglo Irish Bank, at least initially. However, given the envisaged future changes in the Bank’s business model and strategic direction under its restructuring plan, it is anticipated that in time further elements of the credit package will become applicable to Anglo Irish Bank accordingly [Confidential —commercially sensitive for Anglo Irish Bank] [Department to confirm]

Finally, there is this further reference to Anglo’s future:

On account of Anglo Irish Bank’s specific business model, which is specialised in commercial property lending and property development finance, not all of the elements of the agreed credit package will directly impact on Anglo Irish Bank, at least initially. However, given the requirement to prepare a restructuring plan within a six month period as part of the recapitalisation initiative, future changes in the business model and strategic direction of Anglo Irish Bank are likely to bring about a closer alignment between the lending activities of the Bank and the credit needs of the real economy. As a result it is anticipated that in-time further elements of the credit package will become applicable to Anglo Irish Bank accordingly. [Confidential – business secret] [Department to confirm].

Of course questions need to be asked. This document is dated January 8. The Government already had the PwC reports into Anglo and must have had some idea of the scale of the problems at the bank. Yet Merrill was still claiming Anglo was fundamentally sound just a week before the bank was nationalised. Not alone that, all references to the bank being fundamentally sound were marked for redaction.

There is one final section that sums up the entire sorry mess, my emphasis:

Anglo Irish Bank is a focused business bank with a private banking arm. The Bank provides business banking, treasury and wealth/management services. It is not a universal bank and its stated strategy is niche rather than broad market. Each of its customers deals directly with a dedicated relationship manager and a product specialist.

Yet in the same breath we are told the Anglo is of systemic importance. So which is it?

Ireland’s note to the Commission [PDF]

Ireland Note to the European Commission

Does the backbencher O'Donoghue owe us tax?

While some are hoping An Taoiseach may ask John O’Donoghue to repay some of his gross overspending, we are a little more realistic. We know they’re both cut from the same cloth, and thus Cowen will never ask Johnny to cough up.

However, the Revenue Commissioners, an independent body, tell us that benefit-in-kind tax can apply to a holder of public office whose spouses’ expenses were paid for by the taxpayer. It therefore may apply to travel undertaken by Kate-Ann O’Donoghue when she was not partaking in “official business”. If Kate-Ann traveled but was not attending meetings or conferences as the wife of the minister, then the tax would apply.

Revenue don’t comment on individual cases but we wonder how much of the expenses incurred constituted official business. Are the trips as a whole official business or do Revenue take each expense on its merit?

Do water taxis count? VIP facilities in Paris?

Note: Unfortunately the Public Accounts Committee would probably be required to direct Revenue to investigate this, as they did with Rody Molloy.  Unlike Rody, Junket John is politician, so are the members of the PAC… there’s more chance of them doing it than Cowen making the order, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

A visualisation of donations to parties by industry

One of our regular readers, Steve White, has taken the data we collated on political donations and used a visualisation tool to display it.

The box below proportions donations to political parties (not including donations directly to politicians) by donor industry. To change the way the information is shown you can move the “Description of Donor” arrow at the top back behind the “Party” arrow. Doing that will show you to which party donations from a certain sector went to… unsurprisingly Fianna Fáil make up about 90% of the Property and Construction box.

It should be noted that this was built using incomplete data. We have only accredited an industry to about 70% of donors in our political donations spreadsheets, additionally, to give a complete visualisation you would need to add in the details of donations to individual politicians. We’ll be doing this over the next few months, sit tight.

When that is done I’d guess that the percentage of donations from property and construction would be about 55% FF and 30% FG, with the other parties, bar the Greens, covering the rest. This one is skewed slightly because big developers have tended to donate directly to the party, but it is still interesting.

You can read details of all donations to political parties in our spreadsheets section.

Big credit to Steve White.

25% isn't a bad standard, is it SIPO?

I had a good one due to go up today, a really good one, honest. Unfortunately the judicial process took a chunk out of it, then while I was parsing data I discovered there was way more to it than I’d realised. So, I’m going to continue digging and publish that at some point in the future, when on more concrete legal ground.

In the meantime, I was due to pitch this yarn to the papers but I’ve been working 16 hour days and haven’t got ’round to it. If you’re a journo reading this, feel free to rewrite it – but I want a co-byline, which I will invoice for, muthafuckers (or at least a credit for this website, pretty please.)

Way back in July the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) published their annual report for 2008. Until about two weeks ago I was in prolonged correspondence with their press spokesperson about it.

For those unaccustomed with them, SIPO are tasked with ensuring our political parties and that crew in the Leinster House comply with the accounting rules, expenses regulations, donations limits an’ all dah’. Many of their reports, while rarely covered in the press, are worth reading. Unfortunately, they’re working with awful legislation, but doing an pretty poor job on top of that, at least in some areas, as I found out.

So, I was looking through the report the day it was published when, under the subhead “Accounting Units of political parties“, I came across this paragraph:

During 2008, the Standards Commission wrote to 202 accounting units which were identified by the relevant political parties (158 accounting units had been contacted in 2007). 62 accounting units furnished the required statutory documentation by the statutory deadline of 31 March 2008. 78 accounting units failed to furnish their statutory documentation on time. 12 branches of political parties informed the Standards Commission that they have never been an accounting unit or are no longer active. 15 accounting units did not reply.

FYI – An accounting unit is a branch of a political party.

That paragraph made my eyebrow twitch and I know when my eyebrow starts twitching, I’m onto something (that was a lie). 78 is a serious number to fail to furnish required documentation on time, but it was too big to look into on my own. 12 units informing SIPO they’re not active was of little interest, but I followed this up, and the number proved correct.

But 15 units not replying, eh? That sounds juicy. Which party branches would they be? What did SIPO do when they didn’t reply? How were they punished? I put these questions to the Commission spokesperson.

“What measures did SIPO take when the accounting units did not reply?” I asked first…

Continue reading “25% isn't a bad standard, is it SIPO?”

Sean FitzPatrick's loans

The Independent leads tomorrow with a story about €100m in outstanding loans on which former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick is apparently not paying interest. That’s an interest bill of €400,000 a month, but no repayments are being made.

This actually partly relates to my story the other day about Anglo-Irish Nominees Ltd.

We know Mr FitzPatrick had personal loans from Anglo. But those loans did not include lending like the Atrium deal set out here. Money was lent to a company in which he appears to have had a beneficial interest. I wonder how much of Anglo’s lending related to Mr FitzPatrick’s personal interest in investments? This is on top of the personal loans we are already aware of.

The shareholders in Tysan, John Kerry Keane, Paul Coulson, Denis O’Brien, Lindat Limited, Lar Bradshaw, Sean Fitzpatrick, Gary McGann, Paddy Wright, Sean Melly, Pat Gunne, Longstone Estates Limited and Lochlann Quinn, don’t seem to have invested anything in the company apart from €3k share capital.

The liabilities of the company are pretty much all bank loans. The charge indicates there is no personal recourse to the borrowers. Anglo funded €70m of the purchase in 2005 and the 2006 accounts for Balcuik show an “ultimate shareholders loan” of €30m (probably lent by Anglo). The property was then revalued to €137m, handy that, and Anglo increased the borrowings and repaid the €30m to the shareholders. So there is no equity. Anglo get arrangement fees of around €2m and as much interest as possible and probably all of the risk.

And how many more of Anglo’s staff have loans, directly or indirectly, with Anglo?

And how many of these loans are going to be written off at taxpayer expense?

And of course the other question is this:

When Brian Lenihan met Sean FitzPatrick on September 18, 2008, the same day the first PwC report was requested, was Mr Lenihan, or the Regulator or Central Bank, already aware or made aware, of the extent of Mr FitzPatrick’s loans, direct or indirect?

It seems to me that when the results of that first PwC report on Anglo were given to the Government on September 27, just two days before the night of the bank guarantee, the Government, or its regulatory agencies, or Mr Lenihan himself, must have been aware of the extent of Mr FitzPatrick’s loans. The loans were too big for them not to be aware.

And were that the case, Anglo, including all of its deposits and liabilities, was guaranteed despite that knowledge.


Reports prepared for NAMA

Some time ago I sought the following information from the Department of Finance:

1) The titles, dates and authors of all cost-benefit analyses, impact reports or preparatory reports that have been carried out by the Department in relation to NAMA

2) The titles, dates and authors of all cost-benefit analyses, impact reports or preparatory reports that have been carried out by people or companies working on behalf of, or at the request, of the Department, in relation to NAMA

Outside of the FOI (though I still intend pursuing this information through FOI, whether or not it is rejected) I received the following information:

Merrill Lynch (engaged by NTMA)

A number of reports setting out options for the Irish banking sector, including the treatment of impaired assets

PwC (engaged by Financial Regulator)

Various reports produced by PwC, including due diligence on covered institutions arising from the Government guarantee Scheme and recapitalisation programme (in cases with the input of Jones Lang LaSalle)

Arthur Cox

Various legal assessments of covered institutions arising from the Government guarantee Scheme and recapitalisation programme

Peter Bacon, Special Advisor to the Minister / NTMA

Evaluation of options for resolving property loan impairments and associated capital adequacy of Irish credit institutions: Proposal for a National Asset Management Agency and associated required policy initiatives

Rothschild (engaged by NTMA)

Various reports and inputs into the preparations for the establishment of NAMA

Central Bank & Financial Regulator Reports

Various reports produced within normal operating parameters as well as certain assessments of the impact of contingency proposals

HSBC (engaged by NTMA)

A number of reports produced for the interim NAMA and the Minister

NTMA is a curious entity. Back in May were were promised salary scales for NAMA. Have you seen any? The salary of Mr Somers, the head of the NTMA is also secret, apparently. I feel another FOI request coming on.

Some questions for Mr Lenihan

The Daily Mail and Sunday Times have commented already on Lenihan’s diary as published here last week. The Daily Mail concentrated on the meeting with Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone on November 12, 2008. The Sunday Times was more concerned with all the constituency work Mr Lenihan was doing when he perhaps should have been doing more important work.

For my own part I’ve been parsing the document to see what dates coincide. I’ve also drafted and sent two follow up FOIs on the basis of information gleaned from Mr Lenihan’s diary. There will likely be follow ups to those too.

However, the diary itself raises a number of questions that I will list here.

1) Why was a meeting with Sean FitzPatrick on September 18 not listed in the diary?

2) Were instructions given by the Minister to PwC, following the meeting with Mr FitzPatrick, to begin its inquiry into Anglo?

2) What was the purpose of the meeting with Pat McLoughlin of IPSO on September 25? Was this related to lobbying in relation to cheque usage and ATM charges?

3) On the night of the bank guarantee, September 25, who was present at the Department of the Taoiseach with Mr Lenihan and Mr Cowen? No names are listed in the diary, but names were reported in the media.

4) What was the purpose of the meeting with Independent News & Media chairman Brian Hillery on October 31, 2008?

5) What was the purpose of the meeting with Ivan Yates on November 5, 2008?

6) What was the purpose of the meeting with Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone on November 12, 2008, and with James McGuill of the Law Society the same day?

7) What was the purpose of the meeting with Michael Ryan and Paul Ryan of Merrill Lynch on November 13, 2008?

8 ) What was the purpose of the meeting with Andre Orcell of Merrill Lynch and then Lochlainn Quinn on November 24, 2008?

9) What was the purpose of the meeting with Sean FitzPatrick and Donal Drumm of Anglo, on December 16, and why does the diary entry merely list the meeting as “Anglo Irish” instead of their names?

10) Why is there no mention of any meetings with Patrick Neary, the then Financial Regulator, right up until his resignation on the night of Friday, January 9?

11) What was the purpose of the meeting with property developer Stephen Vernon of Green Property on January 30, and with Axel Wieandt of Hypo Real Estate on the same day?

12) What was the purpose of the meeting with Rick Lazio of JP Morgan Chase (who ran against Hilary Clinton in New York in 2000) on April 24?

Those guidelines cited for the Golden Handshake

The severance package adhered to the guidelines set down by the Department of Finance“, they say. They being Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and various other senior Government figures, including some Greens.

The guidelines they refer to are from a memo sent by the Department of Finance’s Head of Public Service Management and Development to all other government departments on the 26th of May 1998. It was titled “Severance and Early Retirement for Chief Executives of State Sponsored Bodies”.

You can read it below yourself, the bolding is my own. For your information, the Tribune has Mr Molloy listed as 53 as of 2007, making him around 55 or so upon the end of his contract. Also remember that Mr Molloy was head of the Institute of Public Administration until last week, which is a part-publicly-funded body, though he was unpaid (which makes it a grey area in employment law).

A Chara,

Severance and Early Retirement for Chief Executives of State Sponsored Bodies Continue reading “Those guidelines cited for the Golden Handshake”

Finance briefing documents

As part of my FOI request seeking the diary of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, I also sought briefing documents used by himself and the Department’s Secretary General David Doyle. My request asked for:

1. The diary of the Minister for Finance (dates given)
2. Briefing notes prepared for the Minister for Finance for an appearance before the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, and
3. Briefing notes prepared for the Secretary General of the Department of Finance for his appearance before the PAC.

Item two was refused outright.

Item three. Is largely granted but a number of records or parts of records have been refused. Furthermore, records relating to the President do not fall within the scope of the Act and accordingly, that part of the briefing material concerned with Vote 1 (President’s Establishment) has been excluded (S. 46 (d)).

In the document they outline what has been included. I am uploading these documents in parts, because it was over 200mb (800 pages) in size.

Part 1 is now available.