Pimco accuses Nama over botched NI property deal

At no stage did Nama ask it to withdraw from the process Pimco insists
At no stage did Nama ask it to withdraw from the process Pimco insists

A US investment firm that pulled out of buying Nama’s Northern Ireland properties over multimillion-pound fixer fees has accused the state agency of “repeatedly mischaracterising” the botched deal.

Pimco ditched its bid to buy the so-called Project Eagle portfolio in March 2014 over concerns it had about £16 million in “success fees”.

The money was to be split equally between ex-Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick, and Ian Coulter, a managing partner of Tughans, a Belfast law firm subcontracted to assist in the deal, a parliamentary committee has been told.

In a letter to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee in Dublin, Pimco said it was “disappointed” that its withdrawal from the sale had been “repeatedly mischaracterised by Nama”.

“We would suggest that Nama has conflated what may or may not have been discussed at the Nama board level (upon which we can not comment) and the reality of the calls that Pimco made to Nama and Pimco’s own decision to withdraw,” it said.

The investment firm said that at no stage did Nama ask it to withdraw from the process, despite Pimco flagging concerns about the proposed fixer fees, which were never agreed, it added.

According to Pimco, Nama said it was not aware of the fee arrangements but enquired if the firm would proceed with the sale should Mr Cushnahan’s involvement or fee proposal be an issue for the agency.

“In no way did Pimco seek the acquiescence of Nama to any fee arrangement nor sought agreement that any fee arrangement was appropriate,” it said in a four-page letter, signed by Tom Rice, a chief legal officer at Pimco.

Pimco said it would not attend the committee hearings, which are investigating the controversial Project Eagle sale, because it did not want to prejudice investigations in the US and the UK.

The firm said it told Nama just before pulling out of a proposed deal that it was disappointed disclosures had not been made by relevant parties to the toxic assets agency.

It did not want to be part of any process “where there would be a suggestion of impropriety”, it said.

Pimco added it was asked by Nama if it had considered “other options” such as “proceeding without the three parties, and we were asked to consider before closing any doors whether every option was being considered”.

The firm told Nama on March 12 it had “no option but to withdraw” and Nama expressed its disappointment but accepted the decision, the hearing was told.

The portfolio was eventually sold to US investment fund Cerberus for £1.2 billion.