A High Court judge has criticised the level and transparency of
fees sought by a receiver and his lawyers for dissolving the family partnership involving the adult children of deceased Judge Noel Ryan.
Stressing the courts' approval of fees is "not a rubber-stamping exercise", Mr Justice Michael White said the hourly rates charged by receiver Ken Fennell were "too high", his supporting documents fell "a long way short" of the court's expectations, the solicitors' bill for legal fees was insufficiently detailed and their instruction fee of €170,000 was too high.
The judge was dealing with fees claimed for work done on dates from 2011 onwards in the receivership which began in April 2009. Mr Fennell replaced the original receiver in late July 2009 and previously received various payments covering the period up to late 2011.
In the application to Mr Justice White, Mr Fennell initially sought €212,184 fees, later reduced to €180,436, for some 712 hours worked by himself and his staff from November 2011 to date, plus a separate order for payment of €277,133 legal costs between June 2011 and August 2013.
In his judgment yesterday, the judge said he accepted this was a complex receivership and he considered a lot of the criticism of the receiver by the Ryans as unfair. However, he also considered five years was “too long to finalise the dissolution of a partnership”.
Hours unaccounted for
In addressing the fees claimed, he said documents provided to the court left 322 hours of the total 712 hours said to be worked by the receiver's staff unaccounted for and the receiver's report did not properly particularise his claim.
In the 2010 case of the Residence Members’ Club in Dublin, Mr Justice Peter Kelly fixed hourly fees of some €357 for a managing partner; €176.40 for a supervisor; €155.40 for a senior; €126 for a semi-senior and €84 for a junior, he noted.
Given “further retrenchment” in the public finances since 2010, he “would have expected a further fall in those rates” and would not finalise the receiver’s account until “discrepancies” were explained and more details provided, he said. He directed an interim payment on account to Mr Fennell of €77,490, including VAT, plus €128,558 for solicitors’ legal fees and outlays.
Mr Fennell is receiver over the Dublin property assets, once valued at €15 million but ultimately sold for substantially less, of the dissolved Ryan partnership whose members were siblings Declan Ryan, Marie McGovern, Martin Ryan, Irene Ryan, Oran Ryan and Trinette Larkin.
The assets were three freehold properties at Fitzwilliam Square; Olympia House, Dame Street and Shamrock Chambers at Dame Street and Eustace Street, leased to Canada Life. The partnership was profitable to 2005 but, as a result of a rent review of Shamrock Chambers, accrued a substantial loss by the end of that year.
Oran Ryan in 2010 agreed to pay €600,000 under a settlement of legal proceedings brought by Declan, Martin and Irene Ryan and Marie McGovern following a dispute over Oran Ryan’s management of the assets. Last year, the receiver was directed by the High Court to pay such money as may be available for satisfying that €600,000 payment.
Mr Fennell later applied for payment of fees dating from mid-November 2011.