Mick Wallace claims US company was prevented from increasing Project Eagle bid

C&AG report published yesterday found shortcomings in €1.6 billion sale of NAMA loan book

Mick Wallace claims US company was prevented from increasing Project Eagle bid

Independent TD Mick Wallace arriving at Leinster House | Image: RollingNews.ie

Independent TD Mick Wallace has again claimed that the sale of NAMA’s Northern Irish loan book was uncompetitive, suggesting that an unsuccessful bidder was forced out of the process. 

A report into the €1.6 billion sale of Project Eagle, published yesterday, concluded that it led to a loss of around €222 million to the Irish taxpayer.

US firm Cerberus defeated a bid by New York-based Fortress Capital Formations to buy the portfolio in 2014.

In an interview on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, Mr Wallace claimed that there was “no competitive tension” in the bidding process.

"The one other company trying to break into the scene from early February 2014 was a company called Fortress,” he said.  

"I have spent hours on the phone with a managing director of Fortress and he has told me that he was frustrated to death at trying to get into the process...

"He was incredibly amazed that he was only allowed one round of bidding. When he wanted to bid more, he wasn’t allowed."

NAMA has previously said that Fortress did not indicate that it wished to increase its bid, or raise any issues about the process at any stage.

It has said all bidders were advised of the reserve price ahead of the sale.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment this morning. Fortress has also been contacted for a statement.

Mr Wallace told the programme that an independent commission of investigation should be set up, saying the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) report dealt with only one aspect of NAMA’s operation.

"We’re a long way still from the whole truth. I think there’s a lot of work to do be done,” he said.

"We need a very honest approach from the government. If they’re seriously interested in getting to the whole truth about how NAMA is operated, Project Eagle is only one aspect of it."

'Significant deviation'

The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee will hold a series of meetings beginning on September 29th to examine the C&AG report.

Chairman Seán Fleming said the findings on Project Eagle showed that there was a "significant deviation" from NAMA's normal marketing and sales process.

"In this case, NAMA appear to have imposed considerable restrictions of time and access to complete property documentation that combined to reduce the number of interested buyers and buyer competition," he said.  

"The end result means that from this sale there was a huge loss to the taxpayer that the C&AG puts in the region of £162 million sterling.

"NAMA may dispute this but if so, they should provide more convincing evidence to the committee."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to meet opposition leaders later today to discuss issues raised in the report. 

NAMA said yesterday that it disagreed fundamentally with many of the C&AG's conclusions. 

In a letter to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, chairman Frank Daly said the agency intended to "rebut these comprehensively and vigorously at the earliest appropriate opportunity".

The NAMA board said it categorically rejected the claim that the sale involved a significant probable loss of value to the state. 

"It's very clear to us that if NAMA had retained the Eagle Portfolio, there would now be no investor interested in buying it today - or in the foreseeable future - at anything close to the [price] that we achieved for that in 2014," Mr Daly said.