A New Year's message from Sean Quinn to his staff and customers gave no indication of the turmoil his company has faced in the last 18 months.

Posted on the Quinn Group's website in early January, the Fermanagh-born businessman spoke glowingly of the insurance company's performance in 2009.

"Notwithstanding 2009 being the low point of the insurance cycle, together with the impact of recessionary type claims, Quinn Insurance had a robust year and I believe it has again outperformed its competitors. This is despite some unfavourable media comment particularly in the early part of 2009.

"All of our competitive advantages in Quinn Insurance are very much in place and I am very excited regarding its ability to improve performance on an annual basis over the next three years," he said, adding that he was considering floating the business on the stock market before retiring in 2015.

Behind the scenes, though, a different picture was emerging. According to the Financial Regulator's affidavit to the High Court, on Christmas Eve the insurer emailed the regulator to say that the wider Quinn Group was seeking a waiver from its lenders to prevent a breach of its banking covenants. That prompted the regulator to demand that the insurer produce a contingency plan "in the event of the failure of the wider Quinn Group."

Not mentioned in Quinn's message were the gruelling negotiations he had been engaged in with the regulator to boost the solvency of the insurance company. The various plans presented to the regulator contained "highly optimistic" forecasts.