Belfast Telegraph

Sean Quinn 'shocked' as Republic's bill for insurer bailout spirals

By Michael Brennan

Bankrupt tycoon Sean Quinn last night jumped at the chance to criticise the joint administrators of Quinn Insurance, after Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan vented his fury at them in correspondence aired in court.

Mr Quinn described the €1.65bn (£1.3bn) costs as “truly shocking” and “astronomical”.

It was a rare example of harmony — given that the Irish government has repeatedly insisted that bankrupt Fermanagh businessman Mr Quinn and members of his family must comply with a High Court order to return €500m (£394m) worth of foreign assets.

It came after Mr Noonan had complained that his government had been “misled” by the joint administrators over the true cost of Quinn Insurance. It is a cost being covered by the state’s insurance compensation fund — and has doubled to €1.65bn (£1.3bn) in a very short space of time.

It means an imposition of a 2% levy on every taxpayer’s motor and home insurance policies to cover the enormous losses at Mr Quinn’s former company.

Despite the fallout, Mr Quinn issued a statement saying that he welcomed Mr Noonan’s remarks — claiming that they showed that his family were not the only ones being “misled”.

“The administrators completely sidelined us and effectively set about destroying one of the most profitable companies in Irish corporate history, while blaming the previous management in the process,” he said.

But the joint administrators — Michael McAteer and Paul McCann of Grant Thornton — have rejected any suggestion that they misled the Irish government.

They have said they are as frustrated as Mr Noonan at the rising cost of paying for its huge losses.

And in the High Court in Dublin, they have publicly blamed the culture at Quinn Insurance of suppressing insurance policy losses up to 2010 — when Mr Quinn and his family were still in charge of the company.

Mr Quinn again insisted last night that it was nothing to do with his actions when he was in charge.

“The reality is that the company was outperforming all its competitors immediately prior to being unnecessarily placed into administration with the incalculable damage being inflicted thereafter,” Mr Quinn said.

Mr Noonan, in his private correspondence to the joint administrators last month, pointedly remarked about how “highly remunerated” they were.

“The minister cannot understand how you as highly remunerated professional administrators, with the support of highly remunerated actuaries and auditors, could not have had a greater insight into the total increased cost at an earlier stage,” a civil servant wrote on his behalf.

Factfile

Despite his criticisms, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan does not have any power over the pay rates or the actions of the joint administrators of Quinn Insurance. A spokesman for Mr Noonan said that the joint administrators were appointed by the Republic’s High Court and that issues such as pay and performance |had “nothing to do with him”.

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