Buckley hires his own legal team for ODCE’s investigation into INM

INM’s chairman has turned to A&L Goodbody, eschewing the company’s lawyers

INM chairman Leslie Buckley is not using INM’s lawyers in a High Court action taken against him by the State’s corporate watchdog. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

INM chairman Leslie Buckley is not using INM’s lawyers in a High Court action taken against him by the State’s corporate watchdog. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Leslie Buckley, the chairman of Independent News & Media (INM) , has hired his own legal team and is not being represented by INM’s lawyers in a High Court action taken against him by the State’s corporate watchdog, which is investigating a whistleblower complaint.

INM’s chairman is being personally represented by one of Dublin’s top corporate law firms, A&L Goodbody, in the High Court case taken by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE).

The ODCE has sought and received from INM reams of documents in recent months as part of the investigation. This month, it also sought certain documents held by the chairman, but Mr Buckley has sought to block it on the basis that the material is legally privileged.

INM said at the weekend it is not a party to the case involving Mr Buckley, and the company emphasised that it has “co-operated fully in supplying the ODCE with all the information it has requested”. It declined to comment further.

The ODCE has asked the High Court to adjudicate on the claim of privilege attached to Mr Buckley’s documents, and it is back before a judge on December 18th.

When asked to clarify why – given that he is an officer of the company – he has personal legal representation and is not using INM’s lawyers, Mr Buckley said he has been represented by A&L ever since the ODCE began this investigation.

The watchdog’s involvement followed a row last year between Mr Buckley and Robert Pitt, INM’s former chief executive who made the whistleblower complaint against him over an aborted bid for Newstalk. Mr Pitt’s complaint to the ODCE also prompted INM to launch an independent review last December.

Extraordinary circumstances

“Based on the extraordinary circumstances of a review that the company was forced to initiate, it was appropriate to seek independent legal advice from the point of view of both INM and the chairman,” a spokesman for Mr Buckley told The Irish Times.

“This advice has been in place for the last 12 months to deal with the matters in question.”

When asked if – given that INM is co-operating fully with the ODCE but he wants to block access to material – he should stand aside as chairman while the investigation is ongoing, Mr Buckley’s spokesman said: “The question of standing down does not arise.”

Mr Buckley represents INM’s main shareholder, Denis O’Brien, who also owns Newstalk, the valuation of which sparked the original dispute between Mr Pitt and Mr Buckley.

Mr O’Brien did not respond when asked to comment on the action against his representative and business partner. Dermot Desmond, the second-largest shareholder, also did not respond to queries about his view on the matter.

Since the ODCE began investigating the INM-Newstalk aborted deal, its inquiry has widened to also take in the handling of a “potential personal data breach” at the company.