Sunday 22 September 2019

Chairman says INM can't put a price on cost of investigations

INM chief executive Michael Doorly and chairman Murdoch MacLennan at the company’s AGM in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
INM chief executive Michael Doorly and chairman Murdoch MacLennan at the company’s AGM in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The chairman of Independent News & Media (INM) has admitted the group doesn't know what the financial cost will be of ongoing probes by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and Data Protection Commissioner.

Speaking to reporters after chairing his first annual general meeting (AGM) of INM shareholders, Murdoch MacLennan said the company has not made a specific provision in relation to costs of the investigations - which already include overlapping court actions.

"We just don't know how long it's going to last or what it's going to cost. We're keeping a close watch on it," he said.

Earlier, he told shareholders that costs associated with ongoing investigations and of a restructuring of the business will be treated as exceptional charges in the next group income statement.

Overall trading held up despite factors including severe storm weather in March which hampered the ability to get newspapers into shops, and higher declines in digital advertising than expected, according to a statement released to the stock exchange.

The high-profile probe by the ODCE provided much of the chairman's focus at the shareholder meeting.

Mr MacLennan said INM had cooperated fully with the ODCE - including responding to 14 requests to hand over books and records, however the group was opposed to the appointment of inspectors to look into the affairs of the company, he said.

INM is seeking to prevent the High Court installing inspectors who would have wide-ranging powers of investigation.

The ODCE applied in March for inspectors to be appointed, citing concerns including a suspected major data breach.

Murdoch MacLennan said he was "horrified" that third parties may have had access to data held by INM for an "improper purpose" as a result of the breach.

INM has appointed Deloitte to review the issues, he said. However, he said the appointment of inspectors was unwarranted.

"The board believes that it is not in the interests of INM that an inspector would be appointed, and does not believe that the appointment of an inspector would be either justified or proportionate in all the circumstances, particularly given INM's co-operation with the ODCE and the fact that the Data Protection Commissioner is conducting her own investigation," he said.

The board had been taken by surprise when the ODCE sought the appointment, via a 240-page court document, but that was "nothing compared to inspectors coming to live with us for God knows how long", he said.

At the AGM, all resolutions put to shareholders, including the re-election of directors, were passed by overwhelming majorities.

Shares closed up by just over 1pc yesterday at 9.50 cent each.

Irish Independent

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