A High Court action by the liquidator of collapsed charities fundraising service Pembroke Dynamic against the platform's founder and former managing director, Peter Conlon, has been resolved. As part of the settlement agreed with liquidator Myles Kirby, Mr Conlon accepts he is responsible for Pembroke Dynamic's debts of up to €2 million.
While Mr Kirby accepts Mr Conlon did not personally benefit from the misappropriated monies, Mr Conlon, under the settlement agreement, has consented to a judgment of €2 million being made against him in favour of the liquidator.
He further accepts the court can make orders disqualifying him from acting as a company director for a period yet to be determined.
Other terms of the settlement provide that orders preventing Mr Conlon reducing his assets below a sum of €2 million, which have been in place since 2018, are to remain in place for three years.
Monies held in several bank accounts, totalling €371,000 are to be given to the liquidator. Those funds, along with any other assets received by Mr Kirby under the settlement, will be distributed to Pembroke’s creditors by the liquidator.
The terms of settlement were outlined before Mr Justice Sanfey on Thursday by Rossa Fanning SC, with Gerard Meehan, for Mr Kirby.
Counsel said, while a settlement had been agreed, there was some dispute between the parties over certain issues. It was accepted that some €4 million donated to several national and international charities via the Pembroke platform had been misappropriated, he said.
It was Mr Kirby’s case that monies were moved from the charitable trust or foundation set up by Mr Conlon to the company, Pembroke Dynamic, that operated the platform. The platform allowed persons to donate to various charities over the internet.
Money donated through Pembroke’s platform was supposed to be given to the individual charities via the foundation, with the company receiving a commission, counsel said.
Counsel said, following Mr Kirby’s forensic examination of Pembroke’s books and records, there appeared to be no financial controls in place to prevent the mixing of monies between the company and the foundation.
Mr Kirby’s case was that monies intended for the charities were used by the company to pay for things including staff wages and rent, without the knowledge or consent of the charities or the donors.
Mr Kirby was seeking a lengthy period of disqualification, of 10 years or more, over what counsel said was “a very serious matter.”
There was a public interest in the application given recent revelations about the charity sector, Mr Fanning added.
While the settlement included a €2 million judgment against Mr Conlon, the liquidator did not realistically expect to recover the full sum, he said.
Solicitor Robert Dore, for Mr Conlon, said the fact his client did not personally benefit from the monies misappropriated was a very significant mitigating factor for the court to consider regarding the length of the disqualification.
It would have been a more serious matter if Mr Conlon had personally benefited from the monies, Mr Dore said.
Mr Conlon is a 67 year old separated father of four adult children and the reality is he will never be a director of a company once the period of disqualification expires, Mr Dore added.
His client had been an award-winning businessman who set up the platform in 2008 in an attempt to “give something back”. The platform was successful for some time before it started to experience difficulties, Mr Dore said.
Mr Dore said Mr Conlon accepts some monies were loaned to the company from the charitable foundation to keep Pembroke going and had consented to a “draconian settlement”.
He had hoped to bring in external investment to the company that ultimately would have saved the day and resulted in the loans being repaid, Mr Dore said, adding his client had also spent time in a Swiss prison.
Mr Conlon lives on a very modest pension of over €400 per week and has retired with far lesser benefits than he would have expected to have enjoyed some years ago, Mr Dore added.
Mr Justice Sanfey, who welcomed the settlement, said he would give a decision next week on the period of disqualification.
Mr Conlon was founder and head of Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services Ltd, and related companies Ammado Technology Limited, and the Ammado Foundation, which were put into liquidation following an application by Revenue in 2018.
Mr Kirby subsequently brought proceedings against Mr Conlon as part of his probe into what happened to donations made to dozens of charities misappropriated by Pembroke.
In 2018 Mr Kirby secured an injunction freezing Mr Conlon’s assets.
The court previously heard Mr Conlon's only assets are properties in Ballsbridge, Dublin, which he co-owns with his former wife, and are in negative equity to the tune of €4 million.
He also claims he has significant liabilities to various parties of over €10 million. Mr Conlon received a four year sentence, with three suspended, in Switzerland in 2018 after he pleaded guilty to embezzlement there to using almost €4 million – intended for charities – to fund his technology company.