Thursday 15 November 2018

Application to appoint inspectors to INM will be heard next month

Stock photo
Stock photo
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The High Court will hear the corporate watchdog's application for the appointment of inspectors to Independent News & Media (INM) next month.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) wants inspectors with wide-ranging powers to examine a number of corporate governance issues at the country's largest media group.

These include a major suspected data breach at the company in 2014, where it is feared the emails of several people, including high-profile journalists Brendan O'Connor and Sam Smyth, may have been accessed.

High Court President Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday set a hearing date of July 10 for the application by the watchdog. The case may run for three days.

Mr Justice Kelly also made an order granting the Central Bank access to relevant documentation filed in the case by both the ODCE and INM.

The court heard the Central Bank wanted access to documentation relating to allegations of potential market abuse.

Mr Justice Kelly said it would be free to use this documentation for the purpose of carrying out its statutory functions in relation to the policing of EU market abuse regulations.

Margaret Gray BL, for the Central Bank, said her client had been informed by INM that it would receive relevant documents within 48 hours.

Neil Steen SC, for the ODCE, said he had no objection to this.

Allegation

Yesterday's hearing came just days after INM issued proceedings against its former chairman Leslie Buckley.

It is understood the company is claiming to have suffered damage as a result of the alleged actions of Mr Buckley, who left INM in March.

Mr Buckley has pledged to defend himself against each and every allegation. He has been a central figure in matters investigated by the ODCE in the run-up to its decision to seek the appointment of inspectors.

The issues Mr Buckley is caught up in include the removal of IT back-up tapes from the company's premises to a site abroad. INM has confirmed the tapes were given to a third party service provider on the instructions of Mr Buckley.

He has claimed he was looking for information about a contract he hoped to renegotiate, but INM says ODCE correspondence suggests the data may have been "searched more extensively and for a different purpose".

The ODCE has also alleged Mr Buckley shared information with INM's largest shareholder, businessman Denis O'Brien, "that may well fall within the definition of inside information" under EU market abuse rules.

Mr Steen said the ODCE had seen media reports that INM was suing Mr Buckley. He said the ODCE would like to see copies of those proceedings.

Shane Murphy SC, for INM, said this would be addressed in affidavits INM plans to file.

The ODCE's investigation was prompted by protected disclosures made by former INM chief executive Robert Pitt.

Irish Independent

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