Cerberus chief confident no improper payments were made

The successful bidder for the Nama Project Eagle portfolio will tell the Public Accounts Committee today that legal firms involved in the deal told them they would offer information to other bidders if they did not pay support fees of £15m.

Mark Neporent, the chief operating officer of New York-based vulture fund Cerberus, will make the allegation when he appears before the Dáil group this afternoon.

The cross-party PAC is currently examining issues surrounding the multi- billion 2014 deal due to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s claim earlier this year that it ultimately cost taxpayers €200m in lost funds.

This, the Comptroller and Auditor General has claimed, is because the Project Eagle portfolio — the name given to Nama’s Northern Ireland portfolio at the time — was sold in a single deal instead of in sections which may have been more profitable.

Amid concerns over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s conclusions, the PAC was asked earlier this year asked to examine the reasons for the suggested lost earnings.

And as such, it is questioning groups key to the case to provide information on what happened, including Project Eagle’s eventual successful bidder Cerberus.

As previously claimed at the PAC, after the original deal with Pimco fell apart in early 2014, two legal firms which were working on the bid — the US-based Brown Rudnick and Belfast-based Tughan’s — contacted Cerberus with a view to making an offer.

The PAC has already heard claims that the firms sought a £15m fee for the support and services for the new bid.

However, at today’s PAC meeting Mr Neporent will claim “Brown Rudnick also told Cerberus that if Cerberus did not wish to enter into this arrangement it would offer its services to another bidder”.

In his opening statement, which was filed with the PAC yesterday and circulated to all members last night, Mr Neporent will also claim the contact with the firms which were previously involved in the Pimco bid was “unsolicited” when it occurred in March 2014.

“Brown Rudnick explained that it could assist Cerberus with its due diligence and evaluation of the Project Eagle portfolio.

Brown Rudnick proposed, from the outset, to be paid a fee of £15m for its services.

“It was agreed that Brown Rudnick would share half of the fee with Tughan’s, which would be engaged by Brown Rudnick not Cerberus to supplement its work,” Mr Neporent will claim.

The Cerberus chief operating officer will also tell today’s PAC meeting that his company is “confident that no improper or illegal payments have been made by Cerberus or any of its affiliates”.

He will also claim that “Cerberus did not direct or authorise anyone to make any such payments on its behalf”.

“For the record, Cerberus had no contact or dealings with Frank Cushnahan at any point before, during or after the acquisition of the Project Eagle portfolio,” he will state.

Brown Rudnick and Tughan’s have repeatedly said that they have complied with all rules relating to the sale.

Meanwhile, the PAC will also hear from former Nama officials this morning about the Project Eagle deal.

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