Tuesday 23 January 2018

RTÉ did not prove bad governance at IBRC - court ruling

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A injunction was granted to businessman Denis O'Brien stopping RTÉ broadcasting his personal bank affairs with IBRC because the station could not produce evidence of bad corporate governance at the State-owned bank, according to a High Court judgment.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy said he made "fairly minimal" redactions to his judgment, and took into account comments made in the Dáil by Independent TD Catherine Murphy about Mr O'Brien's relationship with the bank before he published his ruling.

Justice Binchy said RTÉ did not plan to make an accusation of wrongdoing against Mr O'Brien - but was intending to suggest best practice was not exercised at the bank when agreeing interest rates on the businessman's loans.

However, the judge said no evidence of a substantive nature was presented to the court that would allow it conclude there had been a failure of corporate governance at IBRC.

The judge found both IBRC and Mr O'Brien had, based on the evidence put before him, established a convincing case that they would succeed at a full hearing of the matter.

He said there has been a right to confidentiality between banks and customers for almost a century. But the right to confidentiality was not "absolute" and in some circumstances it is trumped by issues of "very significant public importance".

He said RTÉ claimed the public interest in this case was the bad corporate governance at IBRC, which is effectively run by people appointed by Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

However, he said that does not mean the public is entitled to know every "detail of the affairs or operations of IBRC, and certainly not confidential information concerning its customers.

"I believe that the court must take account of the fact that very little, if any, connection has at this stage been established between the public interest in alleged failures of corporate governance at IBRC and Mr O'Brien's personal dealings with IBRC," he said.

RTÉ sought to report that Mr O'Brien had a verbal agreement with former IBRC CEO Mike Aynsley to extend the deadline to repay his loans with IBRC. The judge said there is nothing wrong with such an agreement, unless it was reached without the approval of the bank's credit committee. The judge said no evidence was presented to show a failure in corporate governance.

He said there was also no evidence that the agreement was agreed by IBRC management either before or after the bank was liquidated.

Mr O'Brien said he was "delighted" with the judgment.

"I note Mr Binchy's statement that 'the existence of a right to confidentiality between a bank and its customers had been recognised in law for almost a century'," he said.

Irish Independent

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