The chairman of the Irish Credit Bureau (ICB) and another director resigned at the end of a wind-up meeting on Monday, saying the board had become “irritable” in recent years. The company’s days were numbered after an Italian firm won the contract in 2015 to run the Central Bank’s new credit registry.
Longtime chairman Paschal Taggart alleged in an address to the liquidation meeting that ICB shareholders – led by AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank – failed to fight the allocation of the Central Bank’s tender to Bologna-based credit and business data group CRIF because they were “petrified” of the regulator following the financial crash, according to sources who attended the virtual event.
Non-executive director and 1% shareholder Paul MacKay, a founding member of the Progressive Democrats who is expected to recoup a fraction of his initial investment of nearly a million euros in 2007, said the banks had been ‘cowards’ by not not opposing the actions of the central bank, the sources said.
The ICB and CRIF were the last two parties involved in the procurement process before the Central Bank awarded the Italian firm the contract in February 2015 to operate its Central Credit Registry (CCR).
The international bailout supervisors of the Republic between 2010 and 2013 – the EU-IMF troika – had pushed for the creation of the CCR under the aegis of the Central Bank to ensure mandatory reporting of all loans in the state over €500.
Mr Taggart, a seasoned Irish corporate boardroom operator, told the extraordinary general meeting (egm) that the Central Bank’s award of the contract to CRIF “defied logic” as he had no “no historical data” and that it would take three to four years before their credit reports were meaningful.
“I am not a shareholder, but I believe this begs the question: did the Central Bank have the right, with the stroke of a pen, to take over the business of ICB, which had been in existence for almost 50 years, essentially for free? ?” sources quoted Mr. Taggart at the meeting.
He said the ICB was worth “at least 100 million euros” before its functions were essentially taken over by the CCR, which outsourced operations to the CRIF.
The ICB’s net asset value stood at 4.5 million euros at the end of 2020, according to its latest set of accounts. The company had repeatedly warned in its annual financial statements in recent years that its future was “uncertain” after the CCR began collecting information and issuing credit reports to lenders in 2017.
ICB stopped providing services from October 1, after its top users indicated they intended to stop using it. It had continued to make an operating profit until at least the end of 2020.
A Central Bank spokeswoman declined to comment on comments made at the EGM.
“As a public body, the Central Bank is required to follow applicable public procurement rules, including the publication of tender documents. Following the procurement process, CRIF Ireland Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of CRIF SpA, was awarded the contract based on the most economically advantageous offer received,” she said.
Former ICB chief executive Mary Leonard – who resigned late last year as the company was set to go into voluntary liquidation – spokespersons for AIB and Bank of Ireland and a spokeswoman for Ulster Bank, all of whom have representatives on the ICB board, declined to comment on comments made at the EGM.
EY’s Luke Charleton and Colin Farquharson were named liquidators of ICB at Monday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, sources said ICB had recently agreed to sell its premises and wider site in Clonskeagh, Dublin 14, for over €2million to University College Dublin, whose campus adjoins the property . The sale should be finalized by the liquidators in the coming months.