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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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We tried to find out who Siteserv's shareholders are ... it didn't go to plan

When in doubt, hit the F10 button.

FOR THE FIRST time, a register of the people and institutions who owned shares in controversial company Siteserv was made viewable to journalists today.

Great, you say: some clarity on who got what in the €5 million payout given to shareholders when the company was sold by IBRC, formerly Anglo, to Millington in 2012.

That’s not quite what happened, however.

The register, which was made available by KPMG via market data company Computershare, contained information pertaining to hundreds of shareholders in alphabetical order.

IMG_20150427_162913 The Computershare office Source: Órla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

A staff member at Computershare told TheJournal.ie some of the important data may be missing, such as when a person became a shareholder or ceased being one, as the archive is “historic”.

The information could be viewed in batches of no more than 17 names at a time, and each journalist had just half an hour to search the database.

You couldn’t search by date or find out who was behind nominee accounts (which are managed by a group such as a stockbroker on behalf of a company or individual).

The database was contained on a legacy system reminiscent of software more at home in a different decade – it was also VERY un-user friendly.

Later Tom Lyons, Business Editor of the Sunday Business Post, told The Last Word with Matt Cooper, he imagined there must be a simpler way of viewing the data.

“It reminded me of being in the early 1990s with my first computer, that’s how difficult it was to use,” Lyons said.

The journalists ahead of me had taken photos of some of the information and tweeted about it, leading to viewing being suspended for a few minutes.

While I was waiting, employees from KPMG and Computershare approached the journalist ahead of me and made it clear they were unhappy he had taken a photo and shared it on Twitter.

Muddying the waters

When it was my turn to swear in frustration at the computer, I was asked to hand over my phone. I declined, saying I would leave it on the table beside me as an employee from KPMG sat nearby.

Most of the questions I asked about how to navigate the system, were met with “I don’t know” or “hit the F10 button”.

IMG_20150427_163142 Source: Órla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

To be fair, those present were trying to be helpful but seemed to have been landed in the deep end.

When the KPMG staff member asked the receptionist on duty for help, she replied : “It’s actually my first day.”

And so we hit F10 a few more times.

We were told we could request another appointment tomorrow if we didn’t have enough time (!) to make sense of the information today. Sanity pushed towards not doing this.

Essentially, an attempt to clear the water has poured about 17 tonnes of mud into it.

When KPMG realised it was “proving problematic in Compushare to view the details in an adequate way” they invited members of the press to view a hard copy of the register in their office this evening.

Again, taking photos is banned and will result in the session being terminated.

FOI 

Freedom of Information (FOI) documents released last week included information on some of Siteserv’s shareholders.

As of 9 December 2011, the company’s founder and CEO Brian Harvey owned over 20,270,000 shares (16%).

Harvest Financial Services owned almost 11,900,000 shares (9.4%), while Boundary Capital had 10,800,000 shares (8.6%).

siteserv shareholders Source: Catherine Murphy

We viewed dozens of entries under “Davycrest” or “Davy” on the register – some with incomplete data such as when the shareholder bought or sold their stake.

Christopher Neate, managing director of Sitserv subsidiary Deborah Services, held 6,415,000 shares (5.1%). Patrick Jordan sold his company Easy Access to Siteserv partially in exchange for shares, and held 5,400,000 units in 2011 (4.3%).

Yesterday, the Sunday Times reported that 6.4 million Siteserv shares changed hands in November 2011 (days before the first bids were received for the company) - compared to just 121,000 shares traded a month earlier.

Review

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has announced the terms of reference into the review by KPMG of transactions carried out by IBRC prior to the appointment of the special liquidators.

Concerns have been raised about potential conflicts of interest as KPMG previously advised Siteserv.

Retired High Court Judge Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill has been appointed “to monitor any actual or perceived conflicts of interests”.

Cabinet Meetings on Water Campaigns Michael Noonan Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

In a statement released this evening, Noonan said the special liquidators of IBRC (Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson of KPMG) will review all transactions which occurred between 21 January 2009 (the date of the nationalisation of IBRC), and 7 February 2013 (the date the liquidators were appointed).

The review will cover transactions that resulted in a capital loss to IBRC of at least €10m during that period.

“I want to stress that the commission of this review and report is to serve the public interest in light of recent speculation and is not being undertaken as the result of any evidence that such deficiencies existed or that transactions were not commercially sound,” Noonan said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said appointed a retired judge to oversee the review “does not go nearly far enough”.

“This an extremely weak attempt by government to give the impression of an inquiry while avoiding any real independent investigation into the very serious questions surrounding the sale of Siteserv,” Martin stated.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy, who has been looking in the Siteserv deal for over a year, wasn’t impressed by the news either.

“Why appoint KPMG in the first place and provide for the potential for conflicts to arise? Surely the first conflict the judge encounters is the perceived conflict of KPMG having been involved in the original transaction?,” Murphy told us.

Sinn Féin’s Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald described the terms of reference as “totally inadequate” and “far from the independent and comprehensive inquiry that is needed”.

What exactly is Siteserv – and why is everyone talking about it?

Noonan announces review into Siteserv deal as more FOI documents emerge

Alan Dukes has A LOT to say about the ‘odd ideas’ at the Department of Finance

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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