The threat to throw families out of their homes following a deal between a vulture fund and a pair of greedy developers exposes the most unacceptable face of capitalism.
Tenants of 208 houses in Cruise Park, Tyrrelstown residents are receiving eviction notices to quit their rented accommodation from Twinlite, a company owned by indebted developers Michael and Richard Larkin.
Ulster Bank sold the Larkins’ debts to Beltany Property Finance, a vulture fund controlled by Goldman Sachs, once infamously described as the Vampire Squid of international finance – by Rolling Stone Magazine – for its ability to suck value for itself out of deals.
The families are refusing to vacate their homes of more than 10 years, and have organised into the Tyrrelstown Tenants Action Group. They have marched to the Dail to take on the Vampire Squid and its supporters there.
The tenants have received little sympathy from their former landlord, with Richard Larkin saying that “we are a business, not a charity.” The Larkins are sole directors of Twinlite, the company that issued the eviction notices, and paid themselves €254,000 from it in 2014. They are expecting to split the profits generated by the sale of the Tyrrelstown homes between themselves and Goldman Sachs’ vulture fund.
These global vultures have been attracted to Ireland by the prospect of making huge profits from buying ‘toxic’ or ‘distressed’ loans at knock-down prices and then selling them on when the market rises.
The number of vulture funds in Ireland has exploded in recent years, helped by Nama and government policies. Nama, the agency set up by Fianna Fáil (and continued by Fine Gael-Labour) to handle the bad debts of banks and developers, have sold 90% of their assets worth tens of billions to vulture funds at massive discount prices.
Over 47,000 residential homes are now owned by vulture funds and are in danger of facing a similar fate to the residents in Tyrrelstown. The potential for a tsunami of evictions in the middle of a housing crisis is a real possibility.
While shedding crocodile tears for the residents of Tyrrelstown, the government rolled out the red carpet for these vultures in recent years by encouraging them to come to Ireland to get the property boom going again by offering generous tax breaks. The Dept. of Finance met with funds such as Blackstone, Apollo Capital and Lone Star 65 times in two years with Michael Noonan personally attending eight of these meetings.
There’s also a strong connection between the Vampire Squid and the Irish establishment. Goldman Sachs ‘advised’ successive governments on restructuring the banks between 2008 and 2013 are ‘advising’ the Dept. of Finance on the sale of AIB and being well paid for it.
They also use Beltany Property Finance for tax evasion purposes. Despite buying €750 million in loans from IBRC, Ulster and Danske Bank and holding half a billion in financial assets at the end of 2014, its accounts show it made profits of ‘€1,000’ and paid corporation tax of just €250.
We can stop these vultures. Emergency legislation must be brought in to give tenants security of tenure and allow families in distress to get a write-down on their mortgages. Nama have already given write-downs of €8.9 billion to bankrupt developers.
Right-wing politicians and their backers will resist this to protect the privileges of the rich. The battle to guarantee the human right to a home ahead of the interests of profit will be decided on the streets as people organise to drive out the vultures. The tenants of Tyrrelstown are showing the way.