Nama CEO Brendan McDonagh admitted the ongoing confusion yesterday as Nama chairman Frank Daly insisted “nobody in Nama knew anything” about a linked £5m success fee due to then Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan until the scandal emerged in March 2014.
Speaking during an 11-hour meeting with the Dáil’s public accounts committee (PAC) , the Nama officials rejected repeated criticism they were aware of the controversy at an earlier date than suggested.
However, asked last night if they could explain why Cerberus was willing to pay Brown Rudnick and Tughan’s the sum in spring 2014 — just months after Pimco’s deal fell apart because of the links to the two firms and Mr Cushnahan — they admitted remaining in the dark.
“Does it seem an extraordinary amount of money to pay? It does,” said Mr McDonagh.
The comment came a week after Cerberus chief operating officer Mark Neporent told the PAC the sum was paid for debtor information and access to northern and southern politicians.
However, Nama has previously been told Mr Cushnahan — who Mr Daly said yesterday may have given companies the “false” impression he could influence Project Eagle bidding — was not involved in this deal.
The comment came after Mr Daly yesterday risked sparking a fresh row with the initial Project Eagle deal favourite, Pimco, over claims the firm wrongly said it had told Nama of the success fees arrangement with Mr Cushnahan months before the controversy forced it to leave the bidding process.
Two weeks ago, Pimco told the PAC it alerted Nama of the connection and planned a €5m success fee for Mr Cushnahan in summer 2013.
However, Mr Daly said Pimco never told Nama that Brown Rudnick and Mr Cushnahan approached it in April 2013.
The comment was heavily criticised by PAC members, who pointed to Nama board meeting minutes from April 2013 which appear to suggest Nama was aware of Mr Cushnahan’s role, an interpretation Nama rejects.
Asked why Nama separately did not tell its sales advisor, Lazard, of the situation when it officially found out about the success fees issue in March 2014, Mr Daly said Nama did not see it “as a major commercial issue at the time”.