March 14, 2010
Yesterday, I visited my father’s grave in Shankill. He passed away this week last year. Listening to I’m Only Sleeping by the Beatles – a song that always reminds me of him and where he is now – I looked out over the cemetery, which is an elevated site.
It is a beautiful spot. To the west, you have the still-snowcapped Wicklow Mountains, and just behind you the Irish Sea crashes onto the beach.
The late afternoon sun was dipping between the Sugarloaf and the lead mines, and the place was quiet, empty and peaceful. This is the type of natural beauty my Dad loved, and the setting prompted lots of tongue tied aunties to tell me last year that he’d appreciate his resting place.
Other people appreciated this place too, it appears – but for very different reasons.
The geniuses at Davy Stockbrokers were taken by it at the height of the boom. They saw ‘‘potential uplift’’, as they might have said back then. So too did their private clients and the developer Joe O’Reilly – one of Anglo’s Golden Circle.
In fact, so taken were they that they paid â‚¬58 million for a huge site next to the cemetery. The site, Woodbrook, where the golf club used to be, lies beside the graveyard, just beyond the Protestant church.
In July 2006 this 51-acre site was bought for over â‚¬1 million euro per acre without full planning permission. According to a glowing article in the Sunday Times back then, the fully-developed site would be worth close to â‚¬1 billion when it was developed.
The Davy private client consortium was asked to put up what is called mezzanine finance- a kind of bridging loan for rich people – which plugs the gap between the developer’s equity, the bank’s loan and the purchase price. For this loan, the private clients were to be paid an astronomical 17 per cent per year.
Anyway, now it is all over, and Davy admitted last week that the investors might get 5c for every â‚¬1 they invested, if they are lucky. If I were one of these private clients, I’d be livid with Davy and the salespeople who put together this little deal.
I’d also be kicking myself as to how I thought it possible a deal could carry a 17 per cent interest rate – when bank rates were 3 per cent – and not be risky. Then again, when greed takes over, all logic goes out the window. Anyway, the house of cards has come tumbling down here in Shankill, as it has all over the country in other sites and deals.
However, for the average citizen – ordinary people like my father, who never got involved in all this carry-on – the sickening part of the Davy Stockbrokers publication last week was that we – not they – are going to pay for this greed, through Nama.
In a nauseating paragraph, Davy says in its report that ‘‘Nama is likely to be the only institution that will have the capacity to provide development finance to build out development projects and thereby provide some capacity for return’’.
There it is, in black and white. his toxic loan, which the promoters say now is worth 0.05 per cent of what it was originally, will be given to the taxpayer to fund. What sort of nonsense is this? This land should be sold now to whoever wants to buy it and the Davy private client T consortium, the loan and the developer should be allowed to suffer.
That’s not to say they can’t start again, but this Nama scam is of no value to Irish society, other than to confirm that the banks and the government are giving the two fingers to the rest of us. But it gets worse because, in order to keep Anglo, one of the main financiers of the property bubble open, lots of things have gone on behind our backs, but in our name.
Anglo needs cash, but the only bits of collateral it has are these worthless loans. The European Central Bank knows this stuff is worthless, and won’t lend Anglo money against this trash. But our own Central Bank will, using our money.
In the past year, the Irish Central Bank has lent â‚¬10 billion to Anglo, using an instrument that it would prefer you knew nothing about. This instrument, called the ‘‘master loan repurchase agreement’’, is a hangover from when we had our own currency. Evidence of its existence is buried deep in the Central Bank’s balance sheet under the ambiguous title ‘‘other assets’’.
The reason this is important is that it shows that, since Anglo was nationalised, it has gobbled up another â‚¬10 billion of our money. When Enda Kenny says there will be riots if Anglo receives another cent of public money, in a way he is behind the times. The money has already been given to Anglo, via this secretive facility.
Since last March, the Central Bank has lent Anglo â‚¬10 billion in return for so called collateral of â‚¬14.5 billion. But the only collateral Anglo has are worthless loans like the land for Woodbrook golf course in Shankill, which Davy Stockbrokers now estimates is worth 5 per cent of its 2006 purchase price.
If we were to apply the same discount to the Central Bank’s loan to Anglo, we would see that the Central Bank – acting in our name – has lent â‚¬10 billion in exchange for collateral that is worth just over â‚¬750million.SotheCentral Bank has probably already lost over â‚¬9 billion. The only way this will ever be recovered is if Nama succeeds in driving the price of this land in Shankill backup.
But who wants this? The very rich private clients of Davy Stockbrokers, for one, who are betting that Nama will bail themout. Who pays for this class rescue scheme? You do!
I left the grave yesterday, contemplating, among other things, what my father and his generation would make of this pathetic game, where the poor pay for the rich in order to legitimise the latter’s greed. What would they think of the insiders once again shafting the outsiders?
My father’s generation – born in the 1930s – built this country. They emigrated in the 1950s in huge numbers when the insiders who ran the place drove it into the ground with their isolationism. When the rest of the world boomed in the 1950s, Ireland – run by the grandparents of the politicians who run the place now – stagnated.
My father’s generation paid the high tax of the 1970s, only to see their children emigrate in the 1980s when the parents of this present government ran the place into the ground yet again.
And now, as that heroic 1930s and 1940s generation is passing away, they leave a country where their grandchildren will pay for the greed and the incompetence of the insiders for a third time. And the little under-the-counter strokes, like the Central Bank’s sweetheart deal with Anglo, continue on the basis that the insiders will give the bill to the outsiders yet again, and continue as if nothing happened.