14/6/15: Why Read Wallace’s Speech on Nama & IBRC?

Mick Wallace, TD speech from earlier this week is worth a read: http://mickwallace.net/index.php/dail-work/dail-diary/760-ibrc-behind-bureaucracy-and-secrecy-our-government-takes-best-care-of-big-business

Let me quote some choice bits relating to the way Ireland operates at the level of IBRC, Nama et al. Italics and bold typeset are added by me.

“We are discussing the alleged preferential treatment of the private sector, in particular deals that may have cost Irish taxpayers startling sums of money. …The number of people who have complained to me in the past couple of years about trying to buy assets from financial institutions controlled by the State, including NAMA and banks, but have not been able to do so despite being prepared to pay more than others, is frightening.”

So Deputy Wallace is saying here that, allegedly, Nama has been turning down higher bidders and accepting lower bids. This can take place perfectly legally, in cases where bidders are connected to the original borrowers (Nama does not allow such bids, although this practice is rather bizarre to begin with and is in contrast to normal practice in the U.S., past practice in Sweden and Finland, and even IBRC practice). If Deputy Wallace’s allegation stands for cases excluding bids by parties connected to the original borrowers, then we have a problem.

“…I was also shocked at how NAMA, …operated. I understood NAMA was going to hold assets until their value recovered and would not offload stressed assets for less than what they were worth. Some of the apartments I built have been sold for €100,000 each during the banking crisis, Apartments which I could not build now for €200,000, even if I got the land and the money for nothing.

Now, Deputy Wallace is an ex-developer with quite an experience under his belt. So he knows what he is talking about. Deputy Wallace goes on to cite several examples, where combined loss to the taxpayers due to Nama premature sales of assets amounts to ca EUR165.1 million. From just a handful of examples.

What he is arguing is that Nama has been engaged in a destruction of value – selling assets at depressed valuations compared to what could have been achieved if it properly managed these assets.

The deals cited by Deputy Wallace are all on the record, in the media. I have been made aware of at least one case of an asset originally pushed by Nama into the market, subsequently being withheld from the market due to legal actions, staying off the market for a year or less. The asset was subsequently sold by Nama for a hefty upside on the original asking price. An upside comparable with what vulture funds reap in their own operations. In other words, delays by developers in this case produced actually higher returns to Nama. These delays were actively resisted by Nama. I have been made aware of at least one asset sold by Nama seemingly in disregard for its upgrading and/or development potential and possible uplifts to asset value arising due to completion of major adjoining public infrastructure project. In another project, I was told of a situation whereby Nama presided over termination of a value-additive joint venture with another organisation that could have nearly doubled the value of the original asset.

In economics, there is a term of ‘opportunity cost’ – the cost arising from pursuing one course of action as opposed to opting for a different course. In Deputy Wallace-cited examples of public knowledge, that cost is non-negligible EUR165.1 million. Or, roughly, 2/3rds of the the ‘savings’ achieved in one year from imposing higher costs onto users of insurance-funded health services. That too is an ‘opportunity cost’.