Quinn family lawyers propose mediation of IBRC dispute
Proposal made after DPP secured third deferral of full hearing over €2.34bn in loans
The deferral of Seán Quinn and family’s case to January 2016 applies pending the determination of criminal proceedings against former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán Fitzpatrick. Photograph: Collins
The proposal was made in court on Wednesday after the Director of Public Prosecutions secured a third deferral of the full hearing of the marathon civil action by the wife and family of Mr Quinn denying liability for €2.34 billion in loans made by the former Anglo Irish Bank to Quinn companies.
The deferral to January 2016 applies pending the determination of criminal proceedings against former Anglo chairman Seán Fitzpatrick.
After Mr Justice Robert Haughton granted the deferral, Martin Hayden SC said his side were seeking a mediation and hoped that would be considered now.
Mr Justice Haughton said it would be more appropriate to make a formal mediation application. Having said that, the courts always welcomed the resolution of disputes by mediation and he would list that matter for June 17th, the judge said.
When the Quinns’ case does open, IBRC will apply for an indemnity from Seán Quinn snr, whom it previously joined as a third party, for any damages awarded should the family win their action. Mr Quinn snr, who exited bankruptcy last January, will be the first witness in the case.
Laurence Brennan, solicitor for Mr Quinn, said his side had been served with the motion and it was a serious matter for his client.
Mr Justice Haughton indicated the motion would be dealt with at a later stage and possibly before the full trial. The judge noted the matter involved uncertainty for Mr Quinn having just exited from bankruptcy and listed it for mention on June 17th.
The family’s case, listed to run at least six months, was due to begin at the Commercial Court on Wednesday but Mr Justice Haughton agreed to adjourn it after been told the DPP was concerned there was a real risk it could contaminate criminal proceedings against Mr Fitzpatrick, due for hearing before a jury on October 5th.
Neither the Quinns, IBRC or its special liquidator Kieran Wallace opposed the stay but their lawyers stressed they were anxious the case get on as soon as possible and that the adjournment should not be excessively lengthy.
The judge adjourned the stay application to allow Paul Anthony McDermott BL, for the DPP, get instructions related to the precise duration of the adjournment and to address IBRC’s concerns whether the separate proceedings against various other Anglo officials might further impact on the Quinns’ date for hearing.
When the case resumed, Mr McDermott said there did appear to be overlap between issues in the other Anglo case and the Quinns case. The DPP was dealing with a jigsaw involving various proceedings, this case was just one piece of the jigsaw and the DPP could not predict how other cases would run, he added.
The DPP brings prosecutions on behalf of the Irish people and that is a factor to be considered, counsel added.
Paul Gallagher SC, for the IBRC, said any adjournment should be on the basis that this case should begin in January 2016. If the DPP was concerned about an overlap with issues in the other proceedings involving the Anglo officials, that case, not the Quinns’ case, should be deferred, he argued.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Haughton noted, when the DPP applied earlier this year to have an April trial date adjourned, the Quinns opposed the stay and argued reporting restrictions could ameliorate any danger to the Fitzpatrick case but that was rejected by the Commercial Court. Mr Justice Brian McGovern had noted the advent of social media created difficulties in terms of effective reporting restrictions and also noted matters related to Anglo attracted considerable public interest, he said.
Those considerations still applied in the context of addressing this application to continue the stay on the case, the judge said. Another factor was that the Quinns were now neutral on the stay and did not wish to do anything to prejudice the criminal proceedings.
It was clear there was potential and considerable overlap between matters in this case and the Fitzpatrick case, he said. It was also significant that no party pointed to any prejudice being suffered by them should the case again be adjourned.
Another factor was there may be some overlap between issues in this case and in the other criminal proceedings concerning other former Anglo officials, he said.
He noted it was contemplated this case could be heard between the Fitzpatrick case and the separate criminal proceedings involving other Anglo officials.
It seemed he should, “very reluctantly” grant the stay and it was also regrettable all parties had to attend court on Wednesday prepared for the hearing to open, the judge said.
In balancing the rights of the parties, he considered it was more reasonable for this case to begin on January 12th, 2016. The judge added, given the right to fair trial, the media should be careful in its reporting of the matter.
The case by Mrs Patricia Quinn and her five adult children, initiated in May 2011, is against IBRC and Mr Wallace who previously joined Seán Quinn snr and two former senior Quinn Group executives, Dara O’Reilly and Liam McCaffrey, as third parties. The bank claims the third parties acted as agents of the Quinn plaintiffs concerning disputed share pledges and guarantees but the Quinns deny that.
Court number six of the Four Courts was specially allocated and fitted out with appropriate computer technology for the hearing and teams of lawyers and large numbers of media were in the packed court in anticipation of the opening.
Three of the Quinn children – Aoife, Brenda and Seán jnr – also attended along with Stephen Kelly, husband of Aoife, and Niall McPartland, husband of Ciara Quinn.
The full hearing date was previously deferred twice due to the existence of separate criminal proceedings against former executives of Anglo.
Because criminal proceedings against Mr Fitzpatrick, due to open last April, were this week deferred for hearing in October, the DPP said it was necessary to get another deferral of the Quinns’ case pending the determination of the Fitzpatrick case.
Mr McDermott said the Director’s concern was the risk of contaminating the criminal proceedings was so great she must reluctantly seek to stay the Quinns’ action. The parties would be aware of the extent to which Mr Fitzpatrick would potentially feature in the Quinns’ case and the potential for overlap, he said.
In their action, the Quinns allege some €2.34 billion in loans made by Anglo to various Quinn companies were made for the unlawful purpose of propping up the bank’s share price. Following the Supreme Court decision last March, they have been told they cannot pursue aspects of their claim alleging the loans are unenforceable.