Law firm 'said it could access NI Executive'

The investment fund which bought Nama’s Northern Ireland portfolio was told by a law firm that it could get them “access” to the NI Executive, an Irish parliamentary committee has heard.

Cerberus bought the loan portfolio for £1.3bn in 2014.

It paid a £15m “success fee” to the Brown Rudnick law firm for work it had done on the portfolio.

Brown Rudnick also claimed it could help Cerberus “position itself effectively with key stakeholders”.

Cerberus chief operating officer Mark Neporent said Brown Rudnick claimed that they could get access to the executive via the Belfast law firm Tughans.

“They told us they could get us access to other stakeholders… the Northern Ireland Executive, people in the Republic,” he said.

Mr Neporent is giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in Dublin.

Cerberus agreed to hire Brown Rudnick on 24 March 2014 and on 25 March the Cerberus chairman Dan Quayle met First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont.

Mr Neporent agreed with committee member Mary Lou McDonald that Brown Rudnick “were as good as their word” in getting access.

Nama, an Irish state agency, was established in 2009 to take control of billions of euro of bad property loans which were damaging the Irish banks.

Controversy has surrounded the sales process.

Brown Rudnick and Tughans had previously been working with another fund, Pimco, which was bidding for the portfolio.

Pimco withdrew from the bidding process when it emerged that its fee arrangement with the firms was to involve a payment to Frank Cushnahan, a former Nama advisor.

Cerberus then engaged Brown Rudnick on what it terms “a success fee only basis”, meaning a fee would only be paid if the deal was done.

Brown Rudnick agreed to share the success fee with Tughans.

Cerberus said it received “express confirmation” from both firms that no fee or commission was payable to any current or former Nama advisors.

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