‘No board row’ over Project Eagle sale

The bosses of Nama have said there was no boardroom row over the controversial €1.6bn Project Eagle deal.

Chairman Frank Daly accepted that minutes of board meetings from late 2013 and early 2014 on the massive Northern Ireland portfolio sale were “maybe too concise”.

However, he told a Dáil inquiry that Nama took the same approach as FTSE 100 companies and the public service in destroying handwritten notes on boardroom discussions once official minutes are signed off.

“There was a challenging of why were we going this way. But there were no contrarian views when this opportunity arose that we should not go down that road,” said Mr Daly.

The Nama chairman said the board made a unanimous decision on Project Eagle. He said there is provision for a board member to have opposition recorded on the minutes and it is “encouraged”.

Mr Daly said the board of the bad bank does not have off-the-record discussions.

“I’m not sure the (handwritten) notes would have added one thing or another,” he said.

“What would have been helpful, probably, to us, was if there was greater detail in the minutes and that that might have helped the committee.”

Nama’s senior managers, Mr Daly and chief executive Brendan McDonagh, told the Public Accounts Committee that the agency has improved its recordkeeping of board meetings since the Project Eagle discussions.

Committee chairman Sean Fleming said the PAC would determine if it is a good idea for public bodies to destroy handwritten notes from board meetings.

Project Eagle was bought by US investors Cerberus in April 2014.

Another US company, Pimco — a leading bidder, has said it pulled out weeks earlier because it was asked for a fixer payment of £16m (€19m) for three parties behind the scenes.

The money was allegedly to be shared equally by Belfast-businessman Frank Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick and Ian Coulter — a managing partner of Belfast solicitors Tughans, Pimco has said. All parties have denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Cushnahan was appointed as an adviser to Nama on Northern Ireland, on the recommendation of the Democratic Unionist Party. He resigned from the role for personal reasons in October 2013. The committee is aiming to publish its report on Project Eagle on January 19.

A report by comptroller and auditor general Seamus McCarthy found the state lost up to €200m on the deal.

The PAC has attempted to uncover more detail of Nama board discussions on the valuation of loans in portfolio.

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