Northern Ireland

Nama accused of mischaracterising Pimco bid withdrawal

Nama
Image caption Nama has always said that if Pimco had not withdrawn voluntarily it would have been forced out

An investment fund has accused Nama of "repeatedly mischaracterising" the circumstances in which it withdrew a bid for a £1bn property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland.

The Pimco fund said it walked away from the deal after it found out that a former Nama advisor was due to receive a "fixer fee".

Nama has always said that if Pimco had not withdrawn voluntarily, it would have been forced out.

It reiterated this on Thursday.

The National Assets Management Agency (Nama) is the Republic of Ireland's "bad bank", set up to deal with toxic loans after the 2008 property crash.

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) is investigating Nama's Northern Ireland deal after cash was transferred to an Isle of Man bank account.

Parties to the deal deny wrongdoing.

'Success fee'

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee of the Dail (Irish parliament), Pimco said that Nama made efforts to persuade it to stay in the process.

Pimco said it first heard about the possibility of buying the portfolio in April 2013 when it was approached by Tuvi Keinan, a partner from the Brown Rudnick law firm.

Mr Keinan then introduced Pimco to Belfast lawyer Ian Coulter and Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan.

Mr Cushnahan had been appointed to Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee in 2010 and served until November 2013.

By June 2013, Brown Rudnick was talking to Pimco about a 16m euro (£14m) "success fee" which, on completion of any deal, would be split between the law firm, Mr Coulter and Mr Cushnahan.

Pimco said it did not agree to this and asked whether Nama knew about Mr Cushnahan's involvement.

In February 2014, the fee issue was raised again and Pimco concluded that Nama had still not been told about Mr Cushnahan's role.

It decided to contact Nama directly to "disclose full details of the success fee arrangements which had been proposed by Brown Rudnick".

'No option but to withdraw'

There was a series of phone calls between Pimco and Nama between 10 and 13 March 2014.

Pimco said that "in no way" did it seek acquiescence to the fee arrangement and told Nama it was "willing to withdraw".

Nama asked Pimco if they had considered "other options" which would allow them to stay in, but they ultimately decided they had "no option but to withdraw".

Pimco said that in some of its public statements Nama may have "conflated what may or may not have been discussed at Nama board level and the reality of the calls that Pimco made to Nama."

A Nama spokesman said: "Nama has made its position clear to the Public Accounts Committee on the withdrawal of Pimco from the process - the Nama board was very clear that, if Pimco did not withdraw, then Nama would exit them.

"Nama rejects any suggestion that it did not set out the circumstances of Pimco's withdrawal accurately."

Mr Cushnahan has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to his Nama role.

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