The biggest property transaction in the history of Northern Ireland and the former US Vice President

Ireland would not have a Peace Process but for America. The island of Ireland owes a debt of gratitude to Senators Edward Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Alfonse D’Amato, George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton.

Enter Dan Quayle.

The former US Vice-President is embroiled in a controversy which has uncharacteristically united both sides of the Irish border in outrage. Quayle’s US investment firm, Cerberus Global Investments, won the NAMA tender to buy the €1.6 billion Northern Ireland property portfolio last year. Prior to Cerberus’ successful bid, Quayle met the Northern Ireland First Minister. The timing of this meeting those who attended are curious.

The questions surrounding the biggest property transaction – €1.6 billion – in the history of Northern Ireland has rocked the Dublin and Belfast parliaments. Politicians across the border and the political divide have called for an inquiry after evidence has emerged which alleges that those close to the property deal failed to exercise probity in their dealings. The circumstances surrounding an alleged fee of €9.8 million is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the UK National Crime Agency. 

I also made a complaint to the FBI. The same provision the FBI relied on with regard to the recent FIFA allegations may apply in this instance. Specifically, the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1952 which form part of the guidelines of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) 1977.

Why did I do that?

It’s my job. I am a governance consultant for the European Commission. My PhD on the history of Irish corruption was published as a best selling book by Manchester University Press in 2012. I worked as a governance consultant for the United Nations and the World Bank. I held academic appointments at the University of New South Wales and Trinity College Dublin. I’m lucky enough to write for a super newspaper

By the way Dan Quayle, we spell it potato in Ireland.

Dr Elaine Byrne


Timeline of the biggest property transaction in the history of Northern Ireland and the role of the former US Vice President

December 2009
The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) was established in December 2009 as one of a number of initiatives taken by the Government of the Republic of Ireland to address the serious problems which arose in Ireland’s banking sector as the result of excessive property lending. NAMA was to function as a so-called “bad bank”, acquiring property development loans from Irish banks in return for Irish government bonds, with a view to improving the availability of credit.

Five institutions (and their subsidiaries) were designated as participating institutions in February 2010: Allied Irish Banks; Bank of Ireland; Anglo Irish Bank; Irish Nationwide Building Society; and EBS Building Society. NAMA’s Northern Ireland customer base was considerable, with approximately 50 per cent of the collateral value underlying the loans lying in Northern Ireland, 40 per cent in Great Britain and 10 per cent in the Republic of Ireland.


24 June 2013
The Northern Ireland Minister for Finance, Sammy Wilson MP MLA, sent a letter to the Irish Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, stating that law firm Brown Rudnick were interested in acquiring the Northern Ireland loan portfolio. Noonan responded that any potential bidder should contact NAMA directly.


September 2013
Brown Rudnick made an unsolicited approach to NAMA and indicated that its client, PIMCO, was interested in acquiring NAMA’s Northern Ireland loan portfolio. Frank Daly, NAMA Chair, told the Irish Parliament, “PIMCO indicated a preference for a closed transaction, which did not involve open marketing of the portfolio.”


January 2014
NAMA launched an open-market auction of €5.7 billion Project Eagle, its entire Northern Ireland based loan book. This 850-property portfolio is the biggest property transaction in the history of Northern Ireland.


January 2014

Peter Robinson sent a debtors’ charter” to NAMA. Frank Daly, NAMA Chair, described the document as that which “appeared to summarise an agreement between PIMCO and the NI Executive”.


10 March 2014
PIMCO informed NAMA that its compliance staff had discovered that PIMCO’s proposed fee arrangement with Brown Rudnick included the payment of fees to Tughans, a Belfast law firm, and to a former external member of NAMA’s Northern Ireland advisory committee, Frank Cushnahan. A fee of £15 million which was to be split three ways among Brown Rudnick, the managing partner of Tughans Ian Coulter and Cushnahan.

  • Coulter was then the managing partner of Tughans. He resigned in January 2015.


13 March 2014
PIMCO withdrew from the Project Eagle process following pressure by NAMA.


US investment firm Cerberus hired US based Brown Rudnick and Belfast based Tughans as strategic advisers. Both law firms had worked for PIMCO.


25 March 2014

Peter Robinson MLA (DUP), Northern Ireland First Minister, met with Dan Quayle, Simon Hamilton and Ian Coulter.

  • Quayle is the former US vice president and now chair of Cerberus Global Investments, the international division of US-based Cerberus Capital Management.
  • Hamilton (DUP) was then the Finance Minister but was appointed as Health Minister in a reshuffle on 11th May 2015.


June 2014
NAMA completes the sale of its Project Eagle €5.7 billion loan book for €1.6 billion to Cerberus Capital Management, at a 72 per cent write down. The “sale represents the largest single transaction by NAMA to date.”


16 March 2015
The UK House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee published a report which was critical of Cerberus and NAMA. The report recommended: “… we have heard disquieting stories from some businesses in NI that they were being treated by Cerberus in a less than sympathetic manner. We find it strange that no Memorandum of Understanding was agreed between the NI Executive and Cerberus, and therefore recommend that the NI Executive keeps a close eye on this situation.”

The report also stated: “The Northern Ireland Executive should keep a close eye on the relationship between Cerberus, the partial successor to NAMA, and businesses in Northern Ireland.”


2 July 2015
Irish MP Mick Wallace (Independent) claimed under parliamentary privilege that €9.8 million was discovered in an offshore Isle of Man account following an independent audit of Tughans. Wallace said that some of this money was “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party” associated with the €1.6 billion Project Eagle auction. The Isle of Man account where the €9.8 million fee was lodged was controlled by Ian Coulter, who has since left the firm. Tughans said the money has been recovered.


9 July 2015
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) confirmed that it is to lead the criminal investigation into the sale of Northern Ireland assets owned by NAMA. The NCA did so following a request from Police Service Northern Ireland.


10 July 2015
The Public Accounts Committee of the Irish Parliament heard evidence from Frank Daly, NAMA Chair. He testified that NAMA forced PIMCO to abandon its bid for Project Eagle. He also revealed that if PIMCO’s bid was successful, a fee of £15 million was to be split three ways among Brown Rudnick, Ian Coulter and Frank Cushnahan.


15 July 2015
Mick Wallace MP (Independent) will disclose further information in the Irish parliament.


15 July 2015
Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will meet. Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will attend.

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