Thursday 14 November 2019

Ryanair in final bid to dismiss US legal case

Dispute: Ryanair and CEO Michael O’Leary are contesting a legal case in New York
Dispute: Ryanair and CEO Michael O’Leary are contesting a legal case in New York
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

RYANAIR has fired the final salvo in its bid to have a class action lawsuit in the United States against the airline and Michael O'Leary thrown out of court.

Lawyers for the airline and the chief executive have claimed that an Alabama pension fund has presented a "wildly implausible theory of securities fraud".

But lawyers for the pension fund have asked a judge to reject the airline's fresh rebuttal, insisting that share sales by Mr O'Leary during the class action period "are classic evidence of motive".

The lawsuit was launched in New York a year ago by the City of Birmingham Firemen's and Policemen's Supplemental Pension System, following a pilot rostering fiasco at Ryanair in 2017 that ultimately saw it recognise trade unions.

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The fund has claimed that Ryanair and Mr O'Leary made false and misleading statements to shareholders regarding employment issues at the carrier. The allegations have been strongly rejected by both defendants.

In the latest submission to the court in their efforts to have the case dismissed, lawyers for Ryanair and the CEO have insisted that the premise for the pension fund's case relies on baseless theories.

The pension fund said Mr O'Leary sold tens of millions of euro worth of shares in Ryanair before the pilot rostering issue emerged and prior to union recognition.

"It is implausible that O'Leary would engage in (what) the fraud plaintiffs allege and knowingly leave the overwhelming majority of his stock - worth more than €727m after the May 2018 sale - to lose value," the lawyers for Mr O'Leary and the airline have told the court.

But lawyers for the pension fund have urged the court to consider the share sales in deciding whether or not to dismiss the case.

"There is nothing unusual about these sales," Mr O'Leary's legal team have countered in court documents.

"Plaintiffs completely ignore that O'Leary regularly sold similarly small amounts of stock regularly prior to 2011."

Irish Independent

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