'Farmer's son' Seán Quinn seeks to defend Anglo claims

Mon, Feb 27, 2012, 00:00

Bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn appeared before the Commercial Court for the first time today urging permission to defend claims by Anglo Irish Bank that he has liability for some or all of €2.34 billion loans made to various Quinn companies.

Mr Quinn told Mr Justice Peter Kelly he was “a simple farmer’s son” who didn’t need much time to argue his entitlement to be represented in his family’s case against Anglo aimed at avoiding liability for the loans, and could be ready within a week or so.

His unexpected appearance came as the judge was preparing to deal with the bank’s application for an order that Mr Quinn be deemed bound by any judgment made in that action.

The bank has joined Mr Quinn and two former Quinn Group executives as third parties to the action against it by Patricia Quinn and her five children denying liability for the €2.34 billion loans on grounds including they were allegedly made for the unlawful purpose of propping up the bank’s share price.

The bank has denied such claims and has joined Mr Quinn, Dara O’Reilly, chief executive of Quinn Group (NI) Ltd, and Liam McCaffrey, former Quinn group finance director, as third parties for the purposes of claiming indemnity against them should the family succeed.

The three, the bank alleges, were central to the management of the Quinn group and an alleged strategy to make investments to fund Contract for Difference (CfD) positions in Anglo before the end of 2007.

The proceedings were before Mr Justice Kelly today via an application by Anglo for directions on how the matter should proceed against the third parties as it appeared Mr Quinn would not be represented following his adjudication as a bankrupt on

January 16th and the decision by the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy not to defend the case on behalf of Mr Quinn.

Gavin Simons, a solicitor who previously represented Mr Quinn in the case, secured permission last week to come off record for the businessman after Mr Quinn said his financial position meant he could no longer engage Mr Simons and was instructing him not to undertake any further work on his behalf.

In its subsequent motion for directions concerning its claims against the third parties, the bank indicated it would be seeking an order for Mr Quinn to be bound by any judgment or decision in the family’s action.

The motion also sought, if Mr Quinn was held liable for all or part of his family’s claim, orders that he be held to have admitted liability for indemnity and permitting Anglo to proceed, at the end of the family’s case, to seek judgment against him in default of defence.

Brian Murray SC, for the bank, said it received a letter from Mr Quinn last Thursday. The judge said he also received a letter which was copied to the solicitors representing the various parties to the case.

In the letter, read by the judge, Mr Quinn said he was adjudicated bankrupt on January 16th last and the Official Assignee had advised he would not be defending the family’s proceedings on Mr Quinn’s behalf because that would be of no benefit to creditors. Mr Quinn said he would do his best to defend the claims against him and wished the relevant documents to be sent to him.

Mr Murray said he would be contending Mr Quinn could not defend the action on his own behalf when the Official Assignee had decided not to participate.

Mr Quinn told the judge Anglo had joined him to the case but now “doesn’t want me”. He was “obviously a major part” of the Anglo/Quinn situation over the last 10 years “and I would have thought it was useful for the court to hear my views”.

When the judge said the bank disputed whether he could appear in circumstances where he was a bankrupt and the Official Assignee had chosen not to be involved, Mr Quinn said: “I don’t know, judge, The way I see it, Anglo joined me, I filed a defence and I want to stand over it.”

The judge said an interesting legal issue arose whether Mr Quinn could do so. The bank, he noted, had said there was no legal authority on that issue here while the situation in England was that Mr Quinn would not be permitted represent himself.

The judge fixed Mr Quinn’s application for hearing on March 15th and directed the relevant legal documents be served at his address in Co Cavan. When Mr Quinn said he was “not big into emails”, the judge directed the documents could be served by ordinary post.

When the judge asked Mr Quinn how long he required to prepare for the hearing on his entitlement to defend, Mr Quinn said a week or so would be adequate. “I’m a simple farmer’s son,” he said.

Tthe judge responded: “I’m a simple man myself”.

A date for the full hearing of the action by the family has yet to be fixed as discovery and other issues remain to be addressed.

Last week, Mr Justice Peter Charleton ruled the family had the necessary legal standing to allege the €2.3 billion loans were issued in breach of the Market Abuse Regulations 2005 and Section 60 of the Companies Act, which restrict a company providing financial assistance for purchase of its own shares.