Note: This is a curtailed version of the story RTÉ sought to publish last month. Two paragraphs of the original planned story cannot be published as they are still covered by the injunction granted to IBRC against RTÉ in May.
Businessman Denis O’Brien asked for more time to repay his debts to State-owned IBRC by arguing he had an alleged verbal agreement with the bank’s former CEO Mike Aynsley.
One month after the bank was put into liquidation in February 2013, Mr O’Brien’s investment advisor David Sykes told the liquidator “Denis has received verbal confirmation” of an extension for his €320m loans from Mr Aynsley and another senior executive Richard Woodhouse.
By this time Mr O’Brien had already repaid €525m of his borrowings and sought to renegotiate the repayment period for the outstanding €320m.
RTÉ News understands that the bank’s previous management accepts it did have discussions with Mr O’Brien about extending the repayment period. But it does not interpret those discussions as having constituted an agreement.
The negotiations were under way when the bank was suddenly liquidated and Mr Woodhouse and Mr Aynsley had their contracts terminated. It is understood that previous IBRC management was seeking to protect the bank’s position.
In October 2013 Mr O’Brien wrote a letter to liquidator Kieran Wallace stating he had “proactively” dealt with his debts in the past. Mr O’Brien added: “As discussed my intention has been to repay the balance of my facilities over the next three years and I had an agreement with the previous management of IBRC to this effect.”
In the letter Mr O’Brien requested a further year to repay his loans although the facilities had already expired. This followed protracted correspondence between the bank and Mr O’Brien.
In the same month, the internal bank documents indicate that if the financial institution failed to give Mr O’Brien flexibility he may take legal action on foot of the alleged verbal agreement with previous management.
In a briefing note the bank said that Mr O’Brien “had advised that it is his view and the view of his lawyers that his discussion with Richard Woodhouse prior to liquidation were binding.”
In another internal note the bank says it seems clear from Mr O’Brien’s advisors that he was not prepared to agree to have his loan sold by the liquidators of IBRC.
It is understood that, under Mike Aynsley, IBRC introduced tighter procedures for approving loans.
Among them were requirements that any extension in a repayment schedule would have to be approved by the bank’s credit committee which would require an extensive process. However, Mr O’Brien’s request for more time prior to liquidation was under discussion and had not been escalated to the credit committee.
The documentation seen by RTÉ News shows the bank believed its situation had been weakened by Mr O’Brien’s assertion that he had a verbal agreement to pay his loans over a longer period.
The documents seen by RTÉ News do not show how the issues regarding Mr O’Brien’s loans were ultimately resolved.
The issues raised in the documents regarding Mr O’Brien’s loans follow significant concerns highlighted by the Department of Finance about the governance of large transactions and client relationships by the previous management of IBRC. The details of the department’s concerns were made public in documents released under Freedom of Information.
Timeline of events:
• In February 2013 IBRC is suddenly put into liquidation by the State.
• In March 2013 Mr O'Brien requested approval to repay his facilities over a three-year period with scheduled capital repayments.
• Liquidators KPMG told him they could only extend for up to 12 months.
• In April 2013 Mr O'Brien formally requested a 12-month extension with no capital repayment.
• In May 2013 the bank approved the extension subject to a €100m capital repayment by November 30th.
• June 2013 Mr O’Brien’s facilities expired after he had availed of the option of a year’s extension 12 months earlier.
• June 2013 Mr O'Brien proposed a one-year extension, to include payment of €100m in November, along with further conditions including releasing the security over Spanish properties. This proposal was declined by the bank.
• Following further correspondence, in October 2013 Mr O'Brien requested a 12-month extension with no capital repayment.
• In an internal note the committee says: “In conclusion, it is regrettable that we cannot achieve consensual agreement from the borrower to maintain the expected repayment schedule by delivery of a further €100m capital repayment in November 2013...”
• The note makes it clear that Mr O’Brien’s facilities have already expired in June 2013.