BANKRUPTCY TOURISTS CROSS IRISH SEA - About 15 people turned out on a cold night at the Clarion Hotel in west Dublin last week to take part in an unusual business seminar. The attendees came from different parts of Ireland and had different backgrounds but they all had one thing in common: they were in debt and considering declaring bankruptcy in the UK, says the Financial Times. “Most of the group had property portfolios and were sophisticated investors who just got caught out in Ireland’s property crash,” says Steve Thatcher, director of IrishBankruptcyUK, a company aiming to tap into the growing trade of bankruptcy tourism from Ireland to the UK. Ireland’s economic boom and bust, which led to a bail-out from the European Union and International Monetary Fund a year ago, has left households saddled with €185 billion of debt. High unemployment and a 50-60% fall in house prices, which has left up to 300,000 mortgage holders in negative equity, means tens of thousands of people have little hope of ever being able to pay back their loans. But in Ireland, unlike in many western countries, bankruptcy is not an option for most people. Just 29 people were declared bankrupt last year and 17 in 2009. This compares to 135,089 bankruptcies in England and Wales, 20,329 in Scotland and 2,323 in Northern Ireland in 2010. “It takes 12 years to be discharged from bankruptcy in Ireland compared to just one year in the UK. It is a no-brainer for people to relocate to the UK for a few months to free themselves of debts,” says Mr Thatcher, who claims to be helping about 50 people through the UK insolvency system for a fee of a few thousand euros per client.

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INCOMING DANSKE CHAIRMAN RULES OUT SELLING IRISH BANK INTERESTS - The chairman elect of Danske Bank has said the group does not plan to dispose of its Irish banking interests. Danske, which owns National Irish Bank in the Republic and Northern Bank in the North, yesterday announced that its chairman, Eivind Kolding, is to take over as the group’s new chief executive in February. He is to be succeeded as chairman by Danske board member Ole Andersen, writes the Irish Times. “The overall strategy is in place,” said Mr Andersen. “The strategy is that Danske Bank must regain a leading position. We must get the profitability of the bank back.” Mr Andersen said the strategy did not include a sale of the bank’s troubled Irish units, which have experienced high loan losses that have dented recent group results. National Irish Bank last month posted a loss of some €600 million for the first nine months of this year. “No one in this bank thinks it has been a fantastic acquisition. There are no considerations at all regarding selling the banks,” Mr Andersen said. “We will do everything we can to get the best out of the situation we are in.” Last month, Danske said it would cut costs by 10%, axing 2,000 jobs in the process, after quarterly profit was wiped out by a drop in trading income, making it the latest Nordic lender to combat slow revenue growth and high funding costs.

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DAVID DALY FAMILY STRIKES DEBT AND ASSETS DEAL WITH NAMA - Developer David Daly and his family have reached a settlement with NAMA, which is believed to include the reversal of earlier asset transfers involving Mr Daly. The Irish Independent says that the arrangements with NAMA are also believed to include a widespread disposal programme, with Mr Daly and family selling three premises on Bond Street, London. In a statement, the agency said: "NAMA and David Daly confirm that David Daly and his family have reached a settlement with the receiver and NAMA, whereby the sale of certain properties has been completed.'' It added: "The Daly family have settled the residual NAMA personal debt, which has been the subject of recent litigation. As part of this agreement, all litigation between the Daly family and NAMA has been withdrawn." It is understood this reference to personal debt includes a reversal of asset transfers, which were referred to during earlier court hearings between the two sides. Yesterday, Mr Daly and his family settled their legal action over NAMA's takeover of their €457m loans. Mr Daly, his daughter Joanne and son Paul last year secured permission from the Commercial Court to challenge NAMA's demand to repay €457m loans. When the matter came before Mr Justice Peter Kelly at the Commercial Court yesterday, he was told the case against NAMA had been settled. The Dalys' case against the State and Allied Irish Banks has also been settled. No details of the settlement were disclosed. The case will be returned to the courts next month to address costs.

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FINES AGAINST INDIVIDUALS HIT RECORD £12.9m AS FSA GETS TOUGH - The London City watchdog is set to finish the year with a flourish as it prepares to levy a thumping last fine which could be unveiled later this week, says the London Independent. The fine will be added to this year's running total of £63.4m, which is the second highest since the FSA's creation in 1999. Activity has hotted up since the end of November, with more than £14m of fines handed out, although that was chiefly down to a £10.5m penalty imposed on HSBC on 2 December. Were it not for the mega-fines of £17.5m on Goldman Sachs and £33m on JP Morgan, 2011 would have been another record breaker. Those two combined accounted for more than half of the 2010 total of £89m. The number of fines, at 54, is also ahead of last year's total of 50. As recently as 2007 the level of fines stood at just £5.34m. But stung by criticism of the so-called "light touch" regulation policy adopted during the boom times of the last decade in the run-up to the financial crisis, the regulator has taken a significantly harder line. While this week's fine is thought to be substantial, it will still not be enough to bring the total up to last year's final figure. But the law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) said fines against individual miscreants, as opposed to those against big companies, has hit a record. So far this year £12.9m has been levied against individuals, smashing the previous year's record of £8.8m. As well as the total value of fines increasing, the average fine paid has also more than doubled, from £149,358 last year to £313,655 this year.