Today in the pressFriday 25 January 2013 10.15
NTMA TO REVIEW POLICY ON STAFF WHO JOIN BANKS - The chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency has said it will review its policies relating to the notice periods that apply to staff who leave to take up senior positions within the banking sector, writes the Irish Times. Addressing questions yesterday at the joint Oireachtas committee on finance, public expenditure and reform, NTMA chief executive John Corrigan said mobility with the private sector was an important component of its model as it is a skills-based organisation. Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath raised the case of Michael Torpey, who joined Bank of Ireland last week as head of its corporate and treasury division from the Department of Finance, where he headed the shareholder banking unit. This division is responsible for the State’s shareholdings in Irish banks. Mr Torpey had previously been employed by the NTMA before the unit was moved to the department of finance. “The cooling-off period needs to be reviewed especially in the wake of the incident you referred to, but it’s difficult to have a one-size-fits-all policy in which we are paying people big money for gardening leave , but it probably does need to be finessed,” Mr Corrigan said. Notice periods in the NTMA vary from one to three months for most staff and six months in the case of Mr Corrigan. It is understood that any change in policy would only relate to new staff as existing contracts of employment could not be altered.
LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK AT TAXPAYERS' EXPENSE - It's the video that will drive hard-pressed Irish taxpayers crazy. It features US billionaire David Tepper bragging about beating the Irish Government's attempt to force his hedge fund to take a loss on investments in risky Bank of Ireland subordinated bonds back in 2011. In a grinning, often light-hearted interview with Bloomberg TV he even claims credit for the bank's return to the bond markets, writes the Irish Independent. It's the first time an investor who held some of the 'subordinated' Bank of Ireland bonds that the Government tried to "burn" has described a legal battle to force the bailed-out bank to pay out. Details of the scrap with Michael Noonan's Department of Finance emerged during an interview that covered everything from Mr Tepper's take on the US debt situation to breaking into song with a verse of 'Bye Bye Birdie'. "You wanna hear a great credit story, I got a great credit story," he tells the mainly US audience before launching into his Bank of Ireland anecdote. Mr Tepper (right) claims he saw off our Government's attempt to 'burn' his investment in subordinated bonds by threatening legal action in the UK and in Ireland. The grinning admission that he took on Ireland and won comes 15 minutes into the lengthy interview recorded earlier this week. It will come as a shock after this country's apparent success in forcing losses on some lenders to the bust Irish banks.
BARCLAYS TOP BRASS FACE FRESH LIBOR HEAT - Senior Barclays managers were dragged further into the Libor scandal on Thursday when a court was told that email evidence suggests top executives knew Barclays was lowballing its submissions to the rate-setting process in November 2007, almost a year earlier than previously disclosed. The Financial Times says that the emails were read out in a London court on Thursday in the first British damages claim over the London Interbank Offered Rate. This came as 104 current and former Barclays employees, including a slew of senior executives, were publicly identified as part of the Libor litigation after losing a bid to keep their names secret. “Guidance, if you can call if that, from the 31st floor is that we don’t stick our head above the parapet in any circumstance,” read a November 2007 email by Miles Storey, a manager in the bank’s treasury department. He was replying to a request by Peter Johnson, a dollar-Libor submitter concerned about the rate-setting process and seeking written management guidance. The 31st floor is Barclays’ slang for the offices of the group management, including the chief executive, in the bank’s Canary Wharf headquarters. At the time, John Varley, who was among those identified on Thursday, was chief executive.The emails read out in court by Tim Lord, QC, representing the claimants, raise questions about who within Barclays’ highest echelons knew about the rigging, and when. Before Thursday, an October 2008 conversation between Bob Diamond, then head of the investment bank, and the Bank of England about lowballing was the first high-level Barclays discussion about Libor to be publicly exposed.
DELIGHT IN AUSSIE TOWN OVER 'TRILLION-DOLLAR' oil find - The South Australian town of Coober Pedy, with a largely underground-dwelling population of just 1,695, is about to challenge the mighty Saudi Arabia as the world's oil capital - at least if claims it could be sitting on more than $20 trillion (£15 trillion) of black gold are to be believed. The London Independent says that the residents, who mostly live in underground "dugouts" to protect themselves from the scorching sun, are euphoric after two new geological surveys estimated that 65,000 sq km of the surrounding Arckaringa Basin in the Australian outback contain up to 233 billion barrels of oil. This puts their town within a whisker of Saudi Arabia's 263 billion barrels, according to the media reports. In truth, while it is theoretically possible that the licence holder, Linc Energy, will be able to recover every single one of those 233 billion barrels, it will probably only be commercially viable to extract a small fraction. Even the report admits this, conservatively estimating that the Arckaringa Basin holds 3.5 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. Saudi Arabia's 263 billion barrels, however, refer to recoverable, rather than total, reserves. But even 3.5 billion barrels is worth $400 billion (£250 billion) at current prices - and the eventual amount could be a good bit higher than that, still in the realms of a game-changing windfall for South Australia.