Business Irish

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Ryanair and O'Leary ask NY court to reject case

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary. Photo: PA
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary. Photo: PA
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

LAWYERS for Ryanair and its CEO Michael O'Leary have asked a New York court to block an attempt by a US pension fund to prohibit them from using some stock exchange filings in their efforts to have a case against them dismissed.

The lawyers have also insisted that Mr O'Leary never said that "hell would freeze over" before trade unions would be permitted at the Irish carrier.

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They cited a full quote from the airline chief, where he said "hell [would] freeze over" before the company would "welcome in Evan Cullen [of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association] and the Aer Lingus crew" to Ryanair.

An Alabama pension fund for firemen and policemen in the US state's largest city of Birmingham sued Ryanair and Mr O'Leary last year, after the airline endured a pilot rostering fiasco in 2017 that ultimately saw it recognise trade unions.

The fund has claimed that Ryanair and Mr O'Leary made false and misleading statements to shareholders regarding employment issues at the airline.

The pension fund has also alleged that increased costs resulting from union recognition, coupled with lower profits, have wiped out "millions" in shareholder value and caused "substantial damage" to the fund. Ryanair and Mr O'Leary have dismissed the claims of securities fraud, insisting they are based on nothing more than the benefit of hindsight.

During the summer, they sought to have the case against them dismissed.

In their latest submission to the US court, lawyers for the airline and Mr O'Leary clarified the full quote by the company's chief at Ryanair's annual general meeting in 2017.

"Did I make a mistake? Yes. Do I bear responsibility? Yes, I do," Mr O'Leary said at the time. "And we will fix it quickly so that we don't disrupt other passengers. But does it mean we will welcome in Evan Cullen and the Aer Lingus crew? Absolutely not. Hell will freeze over before that happens."

Lawyers for Ryanair and Mr O'Leary have told the court in filings: "Plaintiffs cannot falsely accuse defendants of committing intentional fraud by misrepresenting their public disclosures."

The legal team has also argued that the pension fund has proposed a new document filing that is "replete with attempts to provide new reasons why certain statements were misleading".

It added: "Plaintiff's deliberate failure to identify the sources for many of its allegations, and routine mischaracterisation of others, only heightens the need for the court to consider the challenged exhibits here."

Mr O'Leary signed up this year to run the Ryanair group for at least five more years.

Irish Independent

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