Tuesday 25 October 2016

Denis O'Brien entitled to injunctions preventing RTE broadcasting details of businessman's financial affairs - High Court

Published 03/06/2015 | 13:06

Businessman Denis O'Brien
Businessman Denis O'Brien

The High Court has published a redacted judgement on its decision for granting businessman Denis O’Brien a temporary injunction stopping RTE from broadcasting details of his personal banking affairs.

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Justice Donald Binchy made “minimal” redactions to his judgement after taking into account statements made in the Dáil by Independent TD Catherine Murphy.

Justice Binchy said there has been a right to confidentiality between banks and customers for almost a century.

However, he said both sides in the case agreed the right to confidentiality was not “absolute” and in some circumstances it is trumped by issues of “very significant public importance”.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy
Independent TD Catherine Murphy

Justice Binchy said RTE claimed the public interest in this case was corporate governance at IBRC, which is effectively run by people appointed by the Minister for Finance.

Read more: Independent TD Catherine Murphy 'stands by sources' as businessman Denis O'Brien lodges complaint

However, the Judge said that does not mean the public is entitled to know every “detail of the affairs or operations of IBRC, and certainly not confidential information concerning its customers”.

“I believe that the court must take account of the fact that very little, if any, connection has at this stage been established between the public interest in alleged failures of corporate governance at IBRC and Mr O’Brien’s personal dealings with IBRC,” he said.

He said in the absence of such a convincing argument RTE will not succeed in overturning the injunction at a full trial.

The judge noted also that Finance Minister Michael Noonan considered the “close relationships” between former IBRC chief executive Mike Anysley and the bank’s large clients to be “inappropriate”

Read more: Q&A: Why are we talking about Denis O’Brien’s interest rates?

The Judge said Minister Noonan’s concerns formed part of RTE’s argument for broadcasting details of Mr O’Brien’s relationship with Mr Aynsley.

The Judge said the relationship was “strong but not inappropriate”.

RTE sought to report that Mr O’Brien had a verbal agreement with Mr Aynsley to extend the deadline to repay his loans with IBRC.

The judge said there is nothing wrong with such an agreement unless it was reached without the approval of the bank’s credit committee.

“If such an agreement was reached without credit committee approval it would have been indicative of a failure of corporate governance, having regard to the significant balance of the loan outstanding, and if it lead to a loss in the hands of IBRC, that might justify a determination that Mr O’Brien could not rely on the confidentially that would otherwise apply,” Justice Binchy said.

However, the judge said no evidence was presented to show a failure in corporate governance.

He said there was also no evidence that the agreement was agreed by IBRC management either before or after the bank was liquidated.

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