Woman loses fight against Commercial Court transfer
A JUDGE has rejected a claim by the wife of an investor that consumer credit laws prevent her being pursued in the Commercial Court over a €1.75 million loan for private equity fund investments.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly said the loan to Charlotte Lavelle, guaranteed by her husband Peter, was for commercial purposes and described claims that it was unenforceable under the Consumer Credit Act 1995 as “straws in the wind”.
The judge rejected Ms Lavelle’s arguments that proceedings by Friends First Finance Ltd seeking summary judgment against her and her husband for the €1.75 million should not be transferred to the Commercial Court list on the ground that the loan was not a commercial transaction.
Mr Lavelle, head trader with equity traders Pioneer Absolute Return, had guaranteed the €1.75 million loan advanced by Friends First to his wife in 2007 for the purpose of investing in the Quinlan Private equity firm.
Quinlan was set up by Switzerland-based businessman Derek M Quinlan and was involved in acquiring high-profile properties across the world. It suffered serious losses as a result of the financial crisis of 2007-2010.
In an affidavit, Ms Lavelle, formerly Heytesbury Lane, Ballsbridge, and Sorrento House, Dalkey, but now living in Richmond, Surrey, said she had a bona-fide defence to the application for summary judgment.
Ms Lavelle, a mother of two, disputed claims by Friends First that she was a businesswoman and described herself as a homemaker. She had worked previously as a call centre operative for Delta Airlines and in PR.
In 2006, her husband, “who by then had amassed a considerable fortune”, had started to invest extensively and became involved in Quinlan Private, she said.
By the end of 2007, he had upwards of 10 investments arranged with that firm. Ms Lavelle said her only involvement with his investments was settling them for the benefit of the family trust.
From time to time, she signed documents her husband brought home to facilitate the transfer of those funds.
She did not specifically recall signing documents in relation to the €1.75 million loan, she never met anyone from Friends First and never applied for the loan or any other credit facility from it .
Until the legal proceedings were threatened, she did not appreciate she had signed a loan facility. She was “absolutely horrified” at the claim for summary judgment against her, she added.