Sunday, December 2, 2012

NAMA... Not only taking bad debt, taking lives!

The untimely death of high profile developer Hugh O’Regan last Monday night, who was found dead in his car on the side of the road, serves as a poignant reminder to all embroiled in our debt ridden nation of the potential outcome that high levels of stress and strain associated with debt burden can lead to.
NAMA is but a buzzword to the nation, a word utilised daily in news bulletins. An establishment founded in 2009 to address the severe crisis in Irish banking, to combat loan impairments due to excessive lending by the Irish banking system to the property sector causing a depletion in bank regulatory capital. €71bn in loan assets were acquired in the first phase of NAMA’s operation which involved 850 debtors and over 11,000 individual loans, the purpose of which being to pursue all debts owed by its debtors. And the humane side of NAMA?! There was none – as an indebted nation that succumbed to greed, was in desperate need for a solution to aid an economic recovery.
The one time poster boy of the Celtic Tiger era, Mr O’Regan was one of Ireland’s most high profile developers. It was his pub empire for which he was renowned, catering for the needs of affluent clientele. During the boom Mr O’Regan’s portfolio included The Thomas Read pub group which included exclusive haunts like Pravda, The Bailey, Ron Blacks and Searson’s. He also developed the Morrison Hotel. In 2009 however, liquidators were appointed to a number of his companies which had debts of €260m which were transferred to NAMA. In July of this year, Mr O’Regan was sanctioned by the High Court placing restrictions on him in respect of him acting as a company director for the next five years.
Whilst reports circulated initially in the media that Mr O’Regan commit suicide it is now thought that he died of natural causes. A fellow developer Paddy Kelly has spoke out following the tragic death of his former business partner, Mr O’Regan. Mr Kelly revealed the pressures and stresses that Hugh O’Regan was under in recent months due to clashes with the banks. Mr Kelly called for banks to treat debtors with humanity citing that many developers who’d had loans transferred to NAMA were now experiencing mental problems, with at least one other developer known to have taken his own life this year.
Mr O’Regan’s story is merely one story that made the headlines; there are other smaller business people who have succumbed to severe stress due to bad debt. But on most occasions the people behind the bad debt do not make the headlines, they are a mere statistic owing hundreds, thousands and millions – behind the euro signs, there’s the humane aspect of these stories that go unpublished.
Yes, we can all say these business people were greedy, and we the taxpayers are the real victims but we must remember that banks excessively lent millions to these businesses without question. They encouraged this behaviour. We were a nation driven by greed and now we are paying the price.
And some are paying more dearly than others.  This week Adrienne O’Regan lost her husband, Stephen, Adam, Alex and Hugo lost their dad.
In dealing with debtors and those families burdened by significant debt, let’s ensure our approach to dealing with them, whilst following the appropriate regulation, is humane.
The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 02 December 2012