By Stephen McKinley
Further scandal is set to surround Allied Irish Bank, after the chairman of Allfirst, AIB’s ill-fated Baltimore subsidiary, was granted a euro 2.9 million golden handshake. Frank Bramble presided over the bank during the period trader John Rusnack racked up $691 million in debts on failed foreign currency transactions.
Bramble will retire in June. He received $725,000 last year in salary, but received no bonus.
The news comes after last month’s statement by AIB’s group chief executive, Michael Buckley, in which he said at a press conference that no senior staff would be paid an annual bonus until the Rusnack scandal had been cleared up.
The most high-ranking staffer to be fired was Allfirst treasurer David Cronin.
The SEC filing shows that apart from Bramble’s salary last year, Susan Keating earned $600,000. Bernard Gregg, an executive vice-president of Allfirst was paid $315,000, Mary Ann Scully, another vice president, was paid $300,100 and a third executive vice president also received a salary of $315,000.
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Fund managers have expressed anger that AIB has left the senior staff in place, suggesting that a clean sweep and a fresh management team was needed to rebuild confidence in the bank.
Elan: a plan?
The other big loser in Irish business this year was Elan, the pharmaceutical giant, which was the subject of a Wall Street Journal story that suggested its accounting practices hid a myriad of sins not unlike the collapsed energy giant Enron.
Forbes placed Elan on its “Forty stocks to avoid” list last Monday, noting that it had lost 71 percent of its value since the start of the year. But at least Elan is in good company — on the list as well are Coca Cola, AOL Time Warner, Ford, J.P. Morgan Chase, McDonalds and others.
Elan has continued about its business, securing Federal Drugs Agency approval for Avinza, a pain-relief drug, and $40 million for expanding a plant in the U.S. But the company has failed so far to reassure stockbrokers, shareholders and analysts that the allegations in the Wall Street Journal are false.
One Irish shareholder, living in Virginia, said that Elan could only rebuild confidence the same way as AIB: by firing top management and employing a completely new team.
Class-action lawsuits brought against Elan are pending. They were filed in New York and Los Angeles by U.S. shareholders who lost their money when Elan’s stock crashed.
Derry residents had better start saving — that is, if they want a piece of one of the world’s largest cruise ships, the ResidenSea, where the cheapest on-board apartments sell for $2 million.
People can buy an apartment and actually live there year round.
Derry has been trying to attract more cruise ships to its harbor recently, under the development officer of the Cruise Initiative at Derry City Council, Aideen Corr.
“It is a highly prestigious, state-of-the-art vessel, which will have passengers on board who actually own their berths similar to owning an apartment abroad. The cruise industry is constantly changing and developments such as the ‘apartment ship’ add new business and growth to the industry each year,” Corr said.
Bill McCann, the harbor master in Derry, said: “That size of vessel is 240 meters long, they’re 33 meters wide and they have a height of 50 meters. Our channel is only 50 meters wide — so it would not be considered safe to try to get them up into Lisahally. To dredge it to get those size of vessels up would cost _6 million or _7 million.”
Besides, the ship’s name might not go down well with Derry nationalists: the “Royal Princess.”
Kitt could make
French throw fit
Ireland’s minister of state for trade and employment, Tom Kitt, may have accidentally put his home rugby team in a tight spot, after a series of speeches he made at the Franco-Irish Chamber of Commerce.
As Ireland prepared to meet France on Tuesday, Kitt boasted at length about how European Union structural funds, to which France is a heavy contributor, helped build the Irish “economic miracle.”
Result, according to Kitt’s press kits: Irish growth in Gross Domestic Product in 2000 was 10.7 percent and only 3.3 percent in France. Unemployment in Ireland was 4.1 percent and 8.9 percent in France.
As if to rub it in, the Irish Times reported, “lest the French journalists doubt it, each was given an electronic contraption that tells time in 16 cities, converts dollars to euros and calculates taxes. You’d need a degree in computer science to use it.”
Gangs equals snags
Movie news: “Gangs of New York,” a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will finally be released in time for Christmas 2002.
The movie is set in 19th Century New York, around the infamous Five Points neighborhood.
DiCaprio plays an Irish immigrant who becomes involved in gang violence between Italian and Irish immigrants, as he seeks to avenge the slaying of his mobster father.
However, E! magazine reports that the delayed release date (originally April 2001), is because two contemporary New York City brawlers have been trading blows behind the scenes: director Martin Scorcese and Miramax’s chief, Harvey Weinstein.
The film also stars Liam Neeson, Daniel Day Lewis, Cameron Diaz and Jim Broadbent.
Land Wars — again
They’re fighting over territory in Northern Ireland, again — but for once, it’s not what you think.
Land development is the new source of contention, according to a BBC report, with land and property developers starting to meet increasingly fierce resistance from long-term community residents.
Religious lines of battle have nothing to do with it: housing developments are blots on the landscape, said some, such as musician Tommy Sands in Rostrevor, Co. Down.
Since the cease-fires, planning applications have almost doubled. Members of the public have complained bitterly that developers are favored by the Planning Service, which judges which developments can go ahead.
“The reality is the developers have more resources to play with than individual members of the public,” said Ian Maye of the Planning Service.
The BBC reported that the top ten landowners in Northern Ireland are:
1. The Forestry Service, 185,250 acres (5 percent of Northern Ireland).
2. Northern Ireland Water Service, 33,000 acres.
3. National Trust, 27,800 acres.
4. Ministry of Defense, 7,000 acres.
5. Duke of Abercorn, 5,500 acres.
6. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 5,335 acres.
7. Blackston Houston,4,000 acres.
8. Earl. of Caledon, 2,400 acres.
9. Blackwood family, 2,000 acres.
10. Earl of Erne, 2,000 acres.