Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Quinn Insurance crisis: the phone call that shocked watchdog

Fermanagh billionaire Sean Quinn is notoriously secretive about his affairs, but in moving against Quinn Insurance Limited (QIL), the Financial Regulator has unmasked an extraordinary chronology of events.





The immediate catalyst for yesterday's mercy dash to the Four Courts in Dublin was a telephone call from Jim Quigley, chairman of QIL, to Patrick Brady, the head of insurance supervision in the Financial Regulator on March 24.



Mr Quigley told Mr Brady that four QIL subsidiaries had entered into guarantees on wider Quinn Group debts, the effect of which was to reduce the value of the QIL assets by €448m.



In layman's terms, it is alleged that cash-rich Quinn Insurance used its assets as security for the liabilities of the Quinn group -- ultimately owned by the Quinn family -- whose high stakes investment in Anglo Irish Bank resulted in a €1bn loss last year.



The disclosure of the guarantees floored the regulator which had, it has been revealed, asked QIL last January to formulate contingency plans in the event of the failure of the larger Quinn Group.



The regulator, which has been trying since 2008 to require QIL to deliver an "acceptable and viable" financial recovery plan, took immediate action, holding a series of urgent meetings with QIL to analyse the effects of the guarantee's on the insurance group's assets which London law firm Allen and Overy calculated as €448m.



It even offered to give QIL a 30-day grace period before seeking to appoint provisional administrators, subject to the conditions that the guarantees would be released and the lenders would allow the Quinn Group to release €35m to its insurance arm.



The 30-day period was offered to facilitate agreements between the regulator, QIL and the Quinn Group's lenders and note holders.



But the creditors refused and after a marathon series of meetings and conference calls that continued until late Monday night, the regulator moved to place QIL into administration after it became clear that there was no realistic prospect of the guarantees being released.



October 17, 2008:



The Financial Regulator reaches a €3.25m settlement with QIL after it found "reasonable cause to suspect" that regulatory requirements had been breached.



Sean Quinn is also fined €200,000 and steps down as chairman and director of QIL.



November 2008 to December 2009:



QIL submits a series of financial recovery plans to the financial regulator resulting in a €70,000,000 capital injection into QIL to boost its solvency margin and ratio. Quinn later informs the regulator that it will fall below its solvency margin because expected UK profits did not materialise.



Quinn acknowledges its position is "unacceptable".



Christmas Eve, 2009:



QIL sends an email to the regulator advising that the larger Quinn Group needs a waiver from its financiers in relation to the group's 2009 year-end debt covenants. Debt covenants are agreements between a company and its creditors that the company should operate within certain limits.



January 18, 2010:



The regulator asks QIL to formulate contingency plans for implementation in the event of the failure of the entire Quinn Group.



March 12, 2010:



The regulator rejects plan, saying the investment returns are "very optimistic" and profit forecasts "unrealistic" and pens a letter to Mr Quigley, stating it is "unconvinced the plan is realistic, sustainable or prudent".



March 16, 2010:



Mr Quigley meets the regulator to discuss the March 12 letter. During meeting, regulator outlines concerns, among other things, about QIL's equity and property exposures. QIL submits a revised plan.



March 24, 2010:



QIL drops a bombshell when it informs the regulator about the existence of guarantees by four QIL subsidiaries of advances to the Quinn Group. A plan to release the guarantees is rejected by the group's lenders and note holders.



March 30, 2010:



The High Court appoints provisional administrators to QIL, placing Ireland's second largest insurer into effective state control.



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