Caveat: Oil case to bring slick media attention to Jerry Beades

Activist is taking legal action against all central bankers and central banks in the euro zone

If politics is show business for ugly people, then what is the courts system, especially as it pertains to publicity-conscious lay litigants? A clutch of newly filed lawsuits in Dublin against the central bankers of Europe, alleging the fixing of the global oil market, may give us a clue as to the answer. Is it a bit like the Eurovision?

Jerry Beades, the former Fianna Fáil executive member and property developer, has turned relentless lay litigation and anger-driven advocacy into an art form through his exploits with the New Land League anti-eviction campaign and the Friends of Banking Ireland group, which campaigns against the wrongdoings of financial institutions.

Beades, an intelligent and determined but invariably bombastic character, has trained his untrained legal guns on a wide variety of targets in recent years. He has sued, and been sued by, several banks, including ACC and Ulster Bank.

He has sued the State over the appointment of Peter Kelly as president of the High Court. He has clashed with a long list of judges, making allegations about the independence of several. He has also supported numerous other lay litigants in legal actions connected to evictions and property disputes with banks.

It should be said that Beades has had a few notable successes with his legal sorties, including one claim against a bank that lost the deeds to one of his properties. But, on the whole, his record has not been flush with victories.

Most notoriously of all, Beades was on the receiving end of media criticism last year for the assistance he gave to Brian O'Donnell, of Gorse Hill fame, when Bank of Ireland came to repossess O'Donnell's Killiney mansion as a result of his debts.

The irony here is that, unlike Beades, O’Donnell is himself a qualified solicitor. But presumably Beades was able to give him moral and practical support, if not legal advice. And he was able to help him cope with the media attention, of course.

Beades didn’t like the way he was portrayed in the Irish media over the Gorse Hill affair. In his eyes, he was ridiculed for attempting to help a man who was being thrown out of his family home. It didn’t matter to him that it was a 9,000sq ft family home or that the bank said O’Donnell owed it €60 million.

The coverage of his involvement with Gorse Hill still rankles with Beades. Then again, this is the risk you take when you put yourself, willingly, in the public eye on nationally controversial issues.

This week, Beades branched out from the property industry and filed cases against every central banker and central bank in the euro zone, in addition to the European Central Bank, the European Banking Authority and other regulatory bodies.

Matthew Elderfield, the former financial regulator, is also named among the defendants, although it is unclear why, as Elderfield now works for Lloyds.

Beades, who now runs a demolition business in Qatar, will allege that the world’s banks are buying up oil to artificially rig the oil market and inflate the cost of a barrel of crude, propping up loans made to the oil sector. He holds the regulators responsible.

It isn’t just a spotty conspiracy theory to say the oil market is fixed. It is mainstream opinion that the oil market is rigged by producers such as Saudi Arabia. But also by the world’s banks to prop up loans?

This will be for Beades to prove. If he does it, he will be an international hero. If he doesn’t, he should still get plenty of attention-grabbing trips to court out of it. And plenty more chances to tweak the nose of the establishment, which he is, of course, perfectly entitled to do.

Footnotes . . .

Paul Gilroy, the senior UK barrister and who this week represented Louis Van Gaal following his sacking as Manchester United manager, also appears to have drawn blood from Ireland's biggest bank in recent years.

Gilroy was spotted on Monday morning entering United’s training ground at Carrington, where Van Gaal spent the day hammering out a £5 million exit package. Gilroy, who specialises in representing employees in disputes with their employers, must be on speed dial for every professional football manager in England.

When the football sack race kicks off, Gilroy gets busy. The QC’s website profile includes a long list of well-known football clients – Roy Keane, David O’Leary, Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson, Brendan Rodgers amongst them. Among his list of big cases, one catches the eye: “Cunningham v AIB (UK) [2014]Substantial settlement of whistleblowing claim by senior director after [employment tribunal] proceedings and an appeal to the [Employment Appeals Tribunal].”

Could this relate to John Cunningham, the former finance director of AIB’s UK division who resigned as a director in 2012? I asked the bank if it had been sued by Mr Cunningham following his departure.

“We don’t discuss the employee details of individual staff or former staff members,” came the rather terse reply from AIB.

Okay then. Have there been any situations involving whistleblowers in the UK bank in the last few years? “No comment.” Was any whistleblowing encounter notified to the UK regulator? “No comment.” What specific concerns could have been raised by a senior UK whistleblower? “No comment.” Did the bank take any action in the UK on foot of a whistleblower’s concerns? Yet again, no comment was forthcoming.

The talk in the industry is there was major tension among certain senior managers in AIB UK at around this time. Then again, there had just been a global banking crisis. Every bank was a tension magnet. Intriguing, all the same.

Speaking of whistleblowing, Certified Public Accountants in Ireland (CPA Ireland) hosted a business breakfast on Tuesday, addressed by journalist and anti-corruption campaigner, Elaine Byrne.

Whistleblowers in this country must use dog whistles, because nobody in power ever seems to hear them. Byrne has called for the establishment of a US-style Office of the Whistleblower in Ireland.

“The impact of whistleblower reward laws in the US can be seen in the fact that whistleblower information now accounts for about 80 per cent of all US civil fraud prosecutions,” she said.

She also said robust criminal investigations into allegations of corruption and wrongdoing are preferable to Ireland’s probe tool of choice: public inquiries.

“By their nature, [public inquiries] become politicised because they are established by the government of the day,” said Byrne, who called for a specific anti-corruption unit within the Garda fraud squad.

Now, there’s an idea. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for action. You might die.

Karl Brophy, the former Independent News & Media corporate affairs director and bête noire of Denis O'Brien, is a committed rugby fan. His colleagues in Brophy's lobbying outfit, Red Flag Consulting, are more in tune with the beautiful game.

According to a snippet in last week’s Politico, a newspaper about European Union affairs, Seamus Conboy, head of Red Flag’s Brussels office, has challenged everyone in the “Brussels bubble” to collect all 480 official Euro 2016 Panini stickers.

For the uninitiated (and grown ups), Panini stickers for various footballers are swapped between collectors. It’s another painful hipster craze. What’s next? The return of the Cabbage Patch Kids?

Conboy attempted to get the Panini ball rolling by offering a spare Robbie Keane sticker. O’Brien, who is currently embroiled in legal action against Red Flag, pays half the wages of the Ireland football team’s management. He might have a spare Shane Long sticker knocking around to swap with Conboy.