Corporate watchdog not asked to investigate Siteserv share trading

Enforcement office says stock exchange never requested inquiry

Shareholders in what was then effectively an insolvent company later benefitted from a €5m payout from the proceeds of its sale, which was overseen by IBRC, to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien

Shareholders in what was then effectively an insolvent company later benefitted from a €5m payout from the proceeds of its sale, which was overseen by IBRC, to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien

 

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) says it was never asked by the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) to probe a sudden spike in trading in Siteserv shares that occurred while the company was being sold between November 2011 and February 2012.

It also said it is “considering” a recent request from Independent TD Catherine Murphy asking the ODCE investigate the trading. Ms Murphy has suggested under Dáil privilege that insider trading may have occurred in Siteserv shares during the period concerned.

Shareholders in what was then effectively an insolvent company later benefitted from a €5 million payout from the proceeds of its sale, which was overseen by IBRC, to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien.

Taxpayers lost out to the tune of €105 million due to a write-off of its loans to the State-owned bank.

The ODCE told the Irish Times on Thursday evening that it “did not receive any requests from any other regulatory authority asking us to commence an investigation” into Siteserv share trading around this time.

It said that following the political and media furore that blew up around Siteserv in recent weeks, it made contact with “a number of other regulatory authorities with a view to seeking to establish as to whether any issues arise that might come within remit”.

The ODCE did not say what response, if any, it had received from regulators to those recent requests. It also confirmed it had received a request for an investigation from Ms Murphy.

“At this time these matters remain under consideration,” it said.

The ISE, which is owned by the country’s major stockbroking firms, is primarily responsible for monitoring any suspicious trading on the junior market on which Siteserv traded.

For an investigation to have occurred, the ISE would have had to preliminarily investigate the matter itself, before passing a file to the ODCE, which investigates alleged breaches of company law.

O’Brien’s Millington

The ISE said last night it had “no comment on investigative matters generally”. It added: “Where we believe a matter warrants investigation, we will conduct one and may forward a file to the ODCE.”

Separately, Kieran Wallace, the KPMG liquidator of the Siteserv company shell left over after the business was sold to Mr O’Brien’s Millington, only finished tying up the final details of the liquidation this month.

A source said the delay was caused by “legal issues around the pension scheme transfer and issues around a third party provider of services”. These matters were only wrapped up in April. Mr Wallace was appointed as liquidator in 2012.

Mr Wallace, who was responsible for distributing the €5 million to shareholders, filed a large number of Siteserv documents with the Companies Registration Office in recent days. They reveal KPMG was paid about €60,000 to conduct the liquidation and distribute the cash to shareholders.

The liquidation accounts also reveal that Arthur Cox, the law firm that advised the buyer and the seller in the Siteserv deal, also received fees of about €12,500 from the liquidation monies.

The appointment by the Government of Mr Wallace, one of the country’s most respected accountants, to conduct a review of the Siteserv deal and other large IBRC transactions has been a source of major political controversy, as KPMG was also an adviser on the sale of Siteserv.