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Noonan’s AIB bail-in infuriates subordinated bondholders

Legal challenge mounted to controversial order as debt hierarchy overturned

The way in which Irish finance minister Michael Noonan has chosen to bail-in subordinated noteholders in Allied Irish bank, AIB, has caused outrage. Observers are saying that the government is arbitrarily rewriting the rules by opting to issue a Subordinated Liabilities Order (SLO) under the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act of 2010, which drastically alters the terms of the debt and gives preference shareholders priority in receiving dividends while interest payments are suspended to higher-ranked bondholders in the capital structure.

“It is like finding out that you are still on the Titanic, it is still sinking, but you have suddenly moved from the first-class deck to the third-class deck – and all the third-class passengers have gone to second class,” fumes one observer.

No one was very surprised when burden-sharing by the subordinated debt investors of AIB was made a condition of European Commission state aid for Ireland. Indeed, those subordinated bondholders that objected to rival Anglo Irish Bank’s coercive debt exchange last October at 20% of par were told that non-acceptance would lead to repayment of just one cent in every €1,000.

Certainly, the Credit Institutions Act gives the Irish government absolute discretion over how AIB’s subordinated debt is treated.

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