The former chief commercial officer at aviation firm Lobo Leasing has “provisionally” agreed a settlement deal in a multimillion euro legal battle with the firm three years after accusing it of unfair dismissal.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was told last year that Mark Kelly was looking to secure €3.8 million from the firm, on top of a severance package worth nearly a quarter of a million euro, in claims before both the employment tribunal and the High Court after losing his employment at the company.
Two days of hearing were scheduled this week for Mr Kelly’s claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 until the parties in the case confirmed on Wednesday that a settlement deal had been drafted and agreed “provisionally”.
The aviation lessor’s legal team told the WRC in January 2021 it would call its chief executive, Bill Wolf, to give evidence contradicting the complainant’s position – which was characterised by respondent counsel at that time as a “sham redundancy” claim.
The firm, however, sought an adjournment of the matter pending the outcome of proceedings in the High Court.
Marcus Dowling SC, who appeared for the firm at that stage, said a sum “in excess of €3 million” was being sought by Mr Kelly in the High Court and objected to the WRC hearing the matter before the superior forum gave a ruling.
“The idea that an unfair dismissal case can be dealt with, to use that terrible management term, in a silo, is nonsensical because their entire case is that the supposed redundancy was part of a conspiracy, or part of a scheme or a plan to deprive Mr Kelly of the enormous sum claimed by him in the High Court,” Mr Dowling added.
“[Counsel for the complainant] says his client shouldn’t be put to the expense of making submissions. His client pocketed €247,000 as a termination settlement – so he should take some of that money, which he shouldn’t be keeping in bringing this case – and he can use that to pay for the submissions. He’s made a claim for €3.8 million if you total up what he’s claiming in this case and in the High Court case,” Mr Dowling added.
“If it is to proceed, it must proceed in person in light of the nature of the dispute, the issues at stake and particularly the amount of money at stake and the fact that there are going to be a number of witnesses, some of whom are not in the jurisdiction,” Mr Dowling said.
At the time, the Workplace Relations Commission was holding remote hearings only, with few matters convened in person until later that year.
Tiernan Lowey BL, who appeared for the complainant instructed by Kate McInerney of Michael Houlihan & Partners, said, in January 2022, that his client was anxious for the matter to get ahead and resisted the adjournment motion.
He said his client’s gross monthly pay at Lobo Leasing, for the purposes of the WRC claim, had been €32,710 a month, including bonus payments.
“The claim before the High Court relates to completely separate management incentive agreements and commission that isn’t even claimed in the context of the unfair dismissal claim,” Mr Lowey said.
“None of the other issues arise, whether there was an ulterior motive or anything like that. We are claiming that in separate proceedings but we do not bear the onus of proof in this claim,” counsel added.
The matter was adjourned by adjudication officer Joe Donnelly on the previous date, initially until the spring of 2022. It was not listed again before the tribunal until it was set down for two days of hearing this week, however.
When the matter opened on Wednesday before another adjudicator, Davnet O’Driscoll, Mr Lowey said: “I’m happy to be able to state that we have provisionally agreed a settlement in this case,” he said.
The position was confirmed on behalf of the respondent by David Sweetman BL, instructed by Ciarán Ahern of McInnes Dunne Murphy.
Six weeks were sought to finalise the matter due to its complexity, with Mr Sweetman referring to the separate strand of litigation before the High Court.
Ms O’Driscoll noted the withdrawal of the motion with liberty to re-enter before October 25th and closed the hearing.
“Well done,” she told the parties.