Monday 23 July 2018

Former INM CEO to get court papers on suspected data breach

Independent House, Talbot Street, Dublin
Independent House, Talbot Street, Dublin
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A FORMER chief executive of Independent News & Media (INM) and three others are to be given access to court documents relating to a major suspected data breach at the company.

The President of the High Court approved a request from Vincent Crowley for access to court filings related to the forthcoming application by the corporate watchdog to have inspectors appointed to INM.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly also approved similar requests from public relations consultant Rory Godson and two employees of strategic communications firm FTI Consulting, Mark Kenny and Jonathan Neilan.

Mr Crowley was INM’s chief executive between 2012 and 2014 and is now chairman of the newspaper industry body Newsbrands.

FTI did work for INM several years ago.

The names of all four appeared on a list of 19 people discovered by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) during its investigation of a so-called “interrogation” of data held by INM.

It is feared the list was used to search data back-up tapes in 2014 after they were taken out of the company’s premises.

According to the company, the data tapes were given to a third party service provider on the instructions of then chairman Leslie Buckley.

Mr Buckley has claimed the exercise was a search for information about a legal services contract he wished to renegotiate as part of a “cost reduction exercise”.

However, INM has said ODCE correspondence suggests the data may have been “searched more extensively and for a different purpose”.

Bairbre O’Neill BL, counsel for INM, informed the judge of the applications and said there was an agreement that they would be facilitated.

Mr Justice Kelly directed that papers “relating to the data interrogation issue” be furnished to the four applicants by 5pm next Tuesday, July 10.

He said the documents were to be subject to relevant redactions and were to be held confidentially and not used for any purpose other than the proceedings.

An application by the ODCE for the appointment of inspectors to investigate the data breach and other corporate governance issues at INM is also due to get underway next Tuesday. It is expected to last for three days.

INM is opposing the application, which it believes is unwarranted.

Several others on the list of 19 have already been given access to court papers relevant to them.

They include former Irish Independent journalist Sam Smyth, former INM Ireland chief executive Joe Webb, former INM company secretary Andrew Donagher, former INM director of corporate affairs Karl Brophy and a former PA at INM, Mandy Scott.

Another former INM chief executive, Gavin O’Reilly, was also granted access to documents relating to the data interrogation, although his name did not appear on the list.

Documents have also been previously furnished to former INM chief executive Robert Pitt, whose protected disclosure prompted the ODCE investigation, INM chief financial officer Ryan Preston, and Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon.

The court heard there would be an application tomorrow from Ms Dixon’s office, seeking permission to use the documents it has received as part of its investigation into the suspected data breach.

INM issued legal proceedings against Mr Buckley in May. It is understood the company is claiming to have suffered damage as a result of his alleged actions.

The proceedings are expected to focus on alleged breaches by the former chairman of his duties as a director.

Mr Buckley stepped down as INM chairman in March. He was a nominee of INM’s largest shareholder, businessman Denis O’Brien.

Mr Buckley has said it would be inappropriate for him to speculate or comment on any matter that may be the subject of legal proceedings.

However, he has also said he plans to fully and robustly defend himself against each and every allegation.

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