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US fund’s bid to quiz media in Ryanair case blocked by NY court

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Ryanair and its CEO Michael O'Leary have denied the claim. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Ryanair and its CEO Michael O'Leary have denied the claim. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Ryanair and its CEO Michael O'Leary have denied the claim. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

A US pension fund has been blocked from seeking permission to allow it to question members of the media in Ireland and the UK, including this reporter, in a long-running legal action against Ryanair and its CEO, Michael O’Leary. 

The pension fund for fire officers and police officer, based in Birmingham, Alabama, sued Ryanair and Mr O’Leary in 2018, claiming they had made false and misleading statements to shareholders regarding employment issues at the airline.

In late 2017, Ryanair said it would recognise trade unions.

The pension fund alleged that increased costs as a result of unionisation at Ryanair, as well as lower profits, wiped out “millions” in shareholder value. The claims have been strenuously rejected by Ryanair and Mr O’Leary.

A New York court last year said many of the complaints made against the airline and its boss by the pension fund had no actionable basis.

The pension fund recently sought permission from the court to request judicial assistance from the Irish courts to interview under oath this correspondent in relation to a 2018 article in which Mr O’Leary said that recognising trade unions “was not one of my best days in Ryanair, but it was inevitable at some point in time”.

In a draft letter to the High Court, lawyers for the pension fund state that testimony and documents “produced by the Irish Independent are intended for use at trial and are relevant and important to the claims and defences asserted in this action”.

The fund’s lawyers also wanted permission to ask the UK courts for judicial assistance to question Financial Times journalists Arthur Beesley and Josh Spero; John Collingridge of UK edition of The Sunday Times; and Conor Humphries of Reuters.

Lawyers for the US pension fund insisted that the journalists it wanted to interview “possess material information that is highly relevant to the claims at issue in this action”.

However the New York court has rejected the requests.

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“Plaintiffs' motion for the issuance of letters rogatory is denied with prejudice to renewal,” it noted in relation to the pension fund’s application to issue the letters to the High Courts in Ireland and the UK to question the journalists.

The pension fund’s lawyers also wanted permission to seek to question representatives of recruitment firm Crewlink, which provides cabin crew to Ryanair, and Brookfield, a company that provides it with pilots. The request to petition the High Court here to be allowed to do that was also rejected.


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