Friday 28 July 2017

INM chief Robert Pitt made complaint prompting watchdog to seek records in relation to possible acquisition of Newstalk

INM chief executive officer Robert Pitt. Photo: Tom Burke
INM chief executive officer Robert Pitt. Photo: Tom Burke

Dearbhail McDonald Group Business Editor

INM chief executive Robert Pitt made a complaint under new whistleblowing legislation to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, prompting the company law watchdog to seek records in relation to the possible acquisition by INM of radio station Newstalk.

It is understood the complaint, made under the Protected Disclosure Act 2014, was made around the time INM issued a statement to the stock exchange confirming that an “issue” had arisen between Mr Pitt and INM chairman Leslie Buckley over the proposed acquisition of Newstalk.

Businessman Denis O'Brien is the largest single shareholder in INM and is the owner of the Communicorp Group, whose assets include Newstalk.

In the statement issued on November 28th, 2016, INM confirmed that an issue arose between its chief executive and chairman in relation to the terms of a possible acquisition by the company.

This morning, publishing its full year results for 2016, INM confirmed that it is complying with a requirement from the ODCE to produce records in relation to the possible acquisition by the company of Newstalk and related matters that were the subject of an announcement from the company on November 28th 2016.

The ODCE says it does not comment on individual cases and Mr Pitt declined to comment on the ODCE request beyond a statement issued to the stock exchange this morning by INM.

INM also declined to confirm whether the ODCE inquiry was prompted by Mr Pitt’s disclosure.

“The Company does not intend to comment further regarding the ODCE’s request and the independent review,” it said in a statement issued this afternoon.

In this morning’s statement to the stock exchange, INM said it established, in December 2016 – before being contacted by the ODCE – a formal independent review to examine and inquire into matters concerning the possible acquisition of Newstalk and related matters.

“Discussions on the possible acquisition ended at a preliminary stage and the acquisition was never considered by the Board,” said INM in a statement accompanying its full year results.

“The confidential, independent review is being carried out on behalf of the Board by senior counsel and a senior independent governance expert who have been mandated to report to the Board.

“The Company takes its corporate governance responsibilities very seriously, and seeks to comply at all times with all relevant laws and regulations. The Company does not intend to comment further regarding the ODCE’s request and the independent review.

“There were no further events since the year end that would require disclosure or adjustment in the financial statements”.

Under the PDA, an employee may make a disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker, tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings and came to the attention of the worker in connection with the worker’s employment.

The PDA, which came into operation in July 2014, introduces protections for workers who make protected disclosures.

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