Denis O'Brien's Actavo expands into the United States

Actavo Chairman and CEO Sean Corkery said the expansion is 'a logical next step for us at this time'

Actavo Chairman and CEO Sean Corkery said the expansion is 'a logical next step for us at this time'

Denis O'Brien's engineering company Actavo, formerly called SiteServ, has expanded into the United States.

The Irish firm has bought a key division of Atlantic Engineering Group for an undisclosed price.

The deal gives Actavo operations in the US states of Georgia, Texas, Missouri, and Colorado.

The US division acquired by Actavo has 120 staff.

The Irish company already has operations in the UK, Ireland, the Caribbean and Kazakhstan.

SiteServ was sold to an O'Brien-controlled company, Millington, by State-owned IBRC at a loss of €105m in 2012.

The deal attracted significant controversy and is being examined by Commission of Investigation into IBRC along with a series of other loan sales.

A subsidiary of SiteServ won a contract to install Irish Water meters.

Welcoming the announcement, Chairman and CEO of Actavo Sean Corkery said: "The US is an important, dynamic market for us - we see strong demand in North America for the telecommunications solutions we can now offer.

"This is a logical next step for us at this time and takes Actavo into new areas, both geographically and in terms of our customer proposition," he added.

Actavo has operations in over 100 locations internationally, with a global workforce of 5,000 providing network, in-home, industrial, hire and sales, building and event solutions to companies.

Original article RTE News March 20, 2016

Siteserv not yet contacted under remit of IBRC inquiry

Cabinet to consider emergency legislation to overcome legal obstacle hampering commission

The Commission of Inquiry into IBRC is investigating disposals by the bank - which was the former Anglo Irish Bank - involving write-downs of €10 million or more - including the sale of Siteserv. Image: The Irish Times

The Commission of Inquiry into IBRC is investigating disposals by the bank - which was the former Anglo Irish Bank - involving write-downs of €10 million or more - including the sale of Siteserv. Image: The Irish Times

Harry McGee Irish Times

The Commission of Inquiry into IBRC has yet to make contact with Siteserv, the sale of which by the former Anglo Irish Bank forms an important part of the IBRC investigation.

The Cabinet is expected to consider rushing emergency legislation through the Dáil this week to overcome a legal obstacle that has effectively ground to a halt the work of the Commission of Investigation into IBRC.

However, the disclosure that Siteserv has still to be contacted will throw fresh doubt on the commission completing its work before the general election in February or March.

The commission, set up last summer, is investigating disposals by IBRC - the former Anglo Irish Bank - involving write-downs of €10 million or more.

They include the sale of Siteserv to a company controlled by businessman Denis O’Brien, a disposal which involved a write-down of €119 million.

The commission is also investigating a claim made in the Dáil by Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy that preferential interest rates were given to some large borrowers. It was due to publish its final report by the end of December.


In a short statement last night, Siteserv said that four months after it was established in July, the commission “has made no contact whatsoever with Siteserv or its shareholders. From the outset, the company had expressed its willingness to co-operate fully with the Commission”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed on Sunday he had received a letter from Judge Brian Cregan, the chair of the Commission of Investigation.

Judge Cregan informed the Government that an issue surrounding his powers in determining on issues of confidentiality and privilege had meant he “was not in a position to proceed” with his investigation of any relevant transaction where “write-offs” occurred.

The issue, it is believed, relates to the 2004 Act setting up Commissions of Investigation. It is understood the commission did not have the powers to make a determination as to whether or not confidential documents in the possession of IBRC liquidators KPMG should be distributed to parties other than the commission. The liquidators have claimed legal and banking privilege over the documents.


The statement also refers to a request for an extension of time, which suggests that it will not be in a position to report by the deadline of the end of December 2015, set out by its terms of reference.

Ms Murphy and Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath both said the report would not be published until well after the general election. In several interviews, Ms Murphy also warned of the possibility of a collapse of the investigation.

“There is a real possibility of it collapsing, she said, adding: “That will cause absolute outrage. The people will not be taken for fools on this. It is absolutely essential that this information is known.”

The Taoiseach’s statement said he contacted Attorney General Maire Whelan on Friday on the implications of the determination. He asked her to advise him on the legal options available to ensure the investigation can by competed effectively and quickly.

Both Mr Kenny and Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, in separate interviews, raised the possibility of emergency legislation being rushed through the Dáil.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said: “For [the inquiry] to fall flat on its face just before a general election will quiet rightly raise suspicion.”

Source: Irish Times, Mon 9, 2015

Everything you wanted to know about the government’s priorities. The siteserv transaction

what we need is a drastic reorganization of power in society.

Giving Back To The Few

A lot of attention has been paid to the ongoing Siteserv controversy—but the implications for progressive politics have largely been missed in media commentary.

To begin, let’s recap some basic facts.

Siteserv is a construction services company that borrowed a lot from Anglo Irish Bank between 2006 and 2008 and accumulated a debt of €150 million. When the economic crisis struck, the government took over Anglo Irish and changed its name to IBRC.

The government (i.e., taxpayers) was thus made responsible for Siteserv’s debts and tried to get whatever it could out of those bad loans.

But instead of appointing a receiver to Siteserv to recoup those monies, IBRC let Siteserv handle the process themselves… and in 2012, Siteserv was sold to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien for €45 million.

A number of issues have been reported about the deal (although a full investigation has yet to be conducted).

First, Siteserv shareholders received €5 million from the sale. This is important because normally, shareholders, especially when they invested in a company that couldn’t even pay its debts back, are supposed to be wiped out before the creditors (in this case, IBRC). But here, taxpayers absorbed the losses.

Second, the result from the sale are as follows: shareholders got €5 million; state-owned IBRC got €40 million; and IBRC wrote off €110 million of debt it was owed by Siteserv—so the taxpayer took a hit of €110 million.

Third, it has been reported that there were other, more lucrative offers on the table for Siteserv that were rejected.

Fourth, Davy Stockbrokers and Arthur Cox solicitors acted for both sides of the transaction (Siteserv and Denis O’Brien’s company), which is not a transparent practice as it is difficult to obtain the best deal for the government when those overseeing the process simultaneously work for the buyer and the seller.

Fifth, the Central Bank of Ireland reviewed the deal just after it was finalised, but did nothing. The Irish Stock Exchange was also asked recently about a reported spike in Siteserv shares trading just before IBRC received bids from parties interested in buying Siteserv.

The Stock Exchange refused to comment, saying it was precluded from doing so on such matters.

Sixth, the government now wants to review the 2012 sale of Siteserv by using the audit firm KPMG. That is, even if KPMG was involved in the sale. In fact, so far, KPMG has been paid more than €70 million for its services in the liquidation of IBRC.

So asking KPMG to review itself is not exactly an instance of accountability. Indeed, Transparency International Ireland urged the government to remove KPMG from the review.

But our Minister of Finance, Michael Noonan, appointed a former judge to supervise KPMG in the review process. So, the plan is that a judge-reviewer will review the KPMG reviewer. It seems to be difficult to find an objective and neutral reviewer.

Seventh, in 2013, a year after it was bought by Denis O’Brien, Siteserv won several contracts to install water meters in Ireland (through its subsidiary GMC/Sierra). It was bad enough that taxpayers absorbed losses in the sale as stated above, but now Siteserv is benefiting again from the water charges.

A couple of points may be made about all this.

First, there have been accusations that the whole thing shows once again that the government is incompetent, mismanages everything and doesn’t learn from the mistakes of the past.

For example, Shaun Connoly wrote in the Examiner an article entitled “Incompetent Government will Bury the Controversy” in which he wonders if Enda Kenny “really not understands the laws of this country”? He also complains that we are faced with a “rotten system where nothing gets done properly and no lessons are ever learned”.

But the problem with this view is that it assumes that the government is actually trying to manage things properly for the common good, and that if only it could be more competent at doing so, things would improve.

However, in fact, the nature of the state is not to serve the people and to govern for the population as a whole.  This should be clear after a €64 billion bank bailout, a blanket guarantee making ordinary people responsible for €365 billion of bank liabilities, and six years of harsh austerity directed at the general population and the more vulnerable that has pushed the deprivation rate from 11.8% of the population in 2007 to 30.5% in 2013.

So by that standard government performance in the Siteserv deal is not too bad at all.

Siteserv shareholders have benefited. Denis O’Brien has benefited. Firms that have been paid fees to oversee the process have benefited. Taxpayers absorbed losses instead of private interests and bondholders, thanks to the socialisation of Anglo Irish debts.

And everything was kept quiet for about three years until one TD, Catherine Murphy, asked sustained questions—that’s not too bad, although in an ideal world, the deal would have been kept quiet forever.

Second, and related, how can we make sure this won’t happen again? UCD Professor of Politics David Farrell writes in the Irish Times that the controversy highlights “two major weaknesses in our political system”: first is “a Government that is not held adequately into account by parliament” and second is “a mindset that privileges secrecy over openness”.

Farrell’s solution is thus that “there needs to be a culture shift”, meaning that Ministers and civil servants “need to appreciate the principles that underline Freedom of Information—namely, to provide citizens with the information they deserve to know”.

Therefore, “instead of waiting behind closed doors” for information requests, the government should “simply put the information out there as a matter of course”.

The problem with this approach is that again, it assumes that if we could only convince those politicians to be more aware of the need for openness and transparency, things would get better.

It’s not incorrect per se, but the problem is that those politicians know very well that secrecy benefits them and those in power—that’s why they’re keeping things secret! Therefore, hoping they will change on their own won’t work.

So what are we left with? The way to change things is by redistributing economic and political power in society—that’s how you keep the powerful accountable, and in fact, that’s how you make sure nobody is too powerful relative to others.

If ordinary people had the same economic and political power as elites, there simply wouldn’t be too many elites around, by definition. A minority would not make decisions that affect everybody else’s lives.

Power would be decentralized, not concentrated in the hands of a few. In short, what we need is a drastic reorganization of power in society.

Dr Julien Mercille

All Bankers Are Bastards
I've often been rightly accused of crass stupidity when I've publicly made the above statement, overly broad, not accurate, many good, ethical and honest people work in the banking sector.
It's also an completely non-productive statement, it's lets us off the hook to. If they are bastards it's because we've allowed them to be so. We can't really point an wagging finger from the position of our overstretched credit cards and over extended mortgages and say, 'look at them bankers, they're all rich bastards.'
I also need to define the difference between 'a banker' and 'people who work in banks.
There is a big difference.
People who work in banks are not in any way bastards, they are people with jobs and recently very insecure jobs. However under current economic structures their jobs are vital to our way of life, we need them to be honest, of high moral standing, ethical and endlessly patient with a confused and battered public.
However, when I say 'bankers,' I mean the top (as always) 1%, the people who run the banks, the hedge funds, the 'investment arms' and the global financial houses.
They actually do steal, embezzle, and fiddle around with our trillions, the bankers who bribe politicians, threaten governments, manipulate world markets and receive eye watering bonuses just as the bank they theoretically run goes to the wall, they might be justifiably called bastards.
Even if you have spent too much, run up an overdraft, have a mortgage that you'll never live long enough to pay off. If your flexible friend has gone limp with over use, I firmly suggest you can still point a well aimed and accusatory finger at the likes of the gentlemen pictured below and shout, 'oi, mush, you, yeah, you, running for cover this morning, you lying, cheating, conniving unethical, immoral, two faced bastard, gimme my money back.'

by Robert Llewellyn