Business Irish

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Ryanair and O’Leary hit out at claim they misled investors

Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary (Jonathan Brady/PA)
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

LAWYERS for Ryanair and CEO Michael O’Leary have hit back at allegations made by an Alabama pension fund in a class action lawsuit launched against them last year.

The action stems from a pilot rostering debacle in 2017 and subsequent recognition of trade unions at the airline.

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The lawyers claim in a motion just filed to dismiss the action for damages that the pension fund’s allegations of fraud against Ryanair and Mr O’Leary are based on nothing more than the benefit of hindsight and do not identify “a single internal document or confidential witness, or any contemporaneous fact that can support [its] version of events”.

The pension fund for firemen and policemen in Alabama’s largest city of Birmingham has alleged that Ryanair and Mr O’Leary made false and misleading statements to shareholders regarding employment issues at the carrier.

The fund also claims 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.

But lawyers for Ryanair and Mr O’Leary have launched a blistering attack on the allegations and are seeking to have the pension fund’s action dismissed by a New York court.

The fund claimed that Ryanair and Mr O’Leary must have known that a decision in late 2017 to recognise and deal with trade unions was imminent.

That’s a claim the airline and Mr O’Leary have refuted.

“After receiving an unexpected notice of planned multi-country strikes on the eve of the Christmas season [in 2017], Ryanair made the difficult, unplanned decision to hold discussions with external unions for the purposes of collective bargaining,” the lawyers for the carrier have stated in the motion to dismiss the action.

Ryanair lawyers said that the complaint lodged by the Alabama fund fails because it “does not state an actionable claim of securities fraud and because it does not adequately plead control or culpable participation”.

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