Tuesday 16 July 2019

Central Bank withdraws application in INM case

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Shane Phelan Legal Affairs Editor

The Central Bank of Ireland has withdrawn a court application for access to legal documents filed as part of the corporate watchdog’s bid to have inspectors appointed to Independent News & Media (INM).

The bank, whose functions include financial regulation and oversight of the stock exchange and the trading of shares in publicly listed companies, had requested a hearing before High Court President Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

However, counsel for the bank apologised to the judge this morning and said it now wanted to withdraw the “provisional application”.

The nature of that application was not identified by counsel, but it is understood the bank had intended to seek access to affidavits and exhibits filed by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and by individuals on behalf of INM.

Among other matters, the ODCE wants inspectors to examine whether inside information, within the meaning of EU market abuse regulations, was shared by former INM chairman Leslie Buckley with the company’s largest shareholder, Denis O’Brien, and associates of Mr O’Brien.

Mr Buckley was Mr O’Brien’s nominee to the board.

INM has said it is “not asserting” that the sharing of information “was in every respect appropriate”.

However, an affidavit filed by INM director Dr Len O’Hagan said there was “a difference in views” between INM and the ODCE as to the extent of permitted communications.

Dr O’Hagan said nominee directors are expected to share information with their nominating shareholder, where this is done in a manner consistent with fiduciary duties and applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

He also said there was no suggestion from the ODCE that information was used in dealing in INM securities or for other unlawful purposes.

The court also heard today that an application by ‘The Irish Times’ for access to documents in the case, which had been scheduled for Friday week, will not be going ahead.

Counsel for INM, Shane Murphy SC, also said there had been no contact from the London Times in respect of a similar application it had indicated it would be making.

Mr Justice Kelly said the timetable he had fixed in respect of either of those applications had expired and he vacated the scheduled hearing.

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