‘A Crazy Conspiracy’

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From top: Sunday Business Post; Tom Lyons and Denis O’brien; the Banking Inquiry’s core book of evidence related to PwC 

This morning Paul O’Higgins SC, for businessman Denis O’Brien, continues his cross examination of former editor of the Sunday Business Post about his articles on March 15, 2015, pertaining to a 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

Mr O’Brien claims the articles were defamatory of him.

The Sunday Business Post denies this.

The confidential PwC report was a Government-commissioned report in which PwC listed the top 22 borrowers of Ireland’s six banks in 2008. The Sunday Business Post reported that PwC recorded Mr O’Brien as No.10 on the list.

In November 2008, after getting the PwC report, the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dail that Ireland was right to guarantee the banks in September 2008.

He also told the Dáil that there was enough money in Ireland’s banks for the next three years.

The Sunday Business Post reported that the PwC report showed it believed – in its worst case scenario – Ireland’s banks would lose €10.6billion.

Ireland would eventually go on to get a EU/IMF bailout for €64billion in 2010.

The jury in the High Court, before Justice Bernard Barton, has heard that the Sunday Business Post reported in one of the articles:

“[Denis] O’Brien he went on to repay all his debts to Anglo. He is one of AIB and Bank of Ireland’s best clients.”

It’s also heard, on a number of occasions this week, how Mr Lyons destroyed his copy of the PwC report on St Patrick’s Day 2015 by putting it through a shredder in the offices of the Sunday Business Post.

He said he did this to protect his source as he believed the document was traceable.

Mr O’Higgins SC, for Mr O’Brien, quipped yesterday that this was like the “St Patrick’s Day massacre” – a reference to St Patrick’s Day in 2008 when €3.5 billion was wiped off the value of stocks on the Irish Stock Exchange.

A common refrain from Mr O’Brien’s legal team is that they have not seen the PwC report.

When it was put to Mr Lyons by his own counsel Michael McDowell SC that it was Mr O’Brien’s case that he was “the odd man out”, that he should never have been put in the articles with the other 21 men – and that to do so was “defamatory, gratuitous, unnecessary” and done of out of “malice” – Mr Lyons said: “Jesus, that’s nonsense.”

Mr Lyons also said he found it “shocking” that Mr O’Brien said he wouldn’t put it past Mr Lyons to just stick Mr O’Brien into the articles.

Mr Lyons rubbished the suggestion that Mr O’Brien was the victim of some kind of “crazy conspiracy” cooked up by him and the former editor of the Sunday Business Post Ian Kehoe.

The jury has also heard that at the time that the articles were published – in March 2015 – the Banking Inquiry was under way.

It heard that the inquiry contacted Mr Lyons for a copy of the PwC report.

But, at this point, Mr Lyons said he had already destroyed it.

Asked earlier this week if he was surprised when the inquiry asked him for the report, Mr Lyons said:

“It did surprise me. I had this suspicion they hadn’t got it. It was a gut instinct. But when it came out that they hadn’t got it, I was very surprised.”

Further to this…

In PwC’s core book of evidence for the Banking Inquiry – which is publicly available online – one section of it’s evidence appears to match the headline figures reported by the Sunday Business Post on March 15, 2015.

The item is headlined:

The top 22 exposures across the six institutions we have reviewed total 25.5 billion of which 13.7 billion (53%) is in Anglo and 8.1 billion (32%) in AIB.

Although redacted, the list of the amount owed by the 22 borrowers in the Banking Inquiry’s PwC summary (page 155) matches the amount owed reported by the Sunday Business Post here

The PwC core booklet can be viewed here in full

The case continues.

Update: Meanwhile, in the High Court

Yesterday: “He Thinks It’s All About Him”

Meanwhile, In The High Court

9 thoughts on “‘A Crazy Conspiracy’

  1. Johnny

    Fantastic reporting Bodger and Broadsheet,well done.The rating agencies must be nervous huh !

    ‘Distressed Debt Exchange: The exchange reflects the controlling shareholder’s willingness to restructure debt rather than seeking additional equity or expediting asset sales. Furthermore, the terms of the exchange, particularly in regards to the subordination of 2022 noteholders is viewed as a negative from a governance standpoint. These moves have undermined the group’s position with creditors and will result in higher refinancing costs at all levels. While the restructuring has afforded the group extra time to monetize assets, the amortization profile still features significant maturities starting in 2021‘

    They described the bond extensions as defaults,are they next ?

    https://www.fitchratings.com/site/pr/10059495

    Ps-great links thank you.

  2. Eoin

    So, the totals in the PwC report that HAS been published equal the totals in the SBP report which included Denis O’Brien’s borrowings? Doesn’t that prove that Tom Lyons wasn’t “maliciously” or “gratuitously” including Denis O’Brien on the list? Jebus, the idea that Ian Kehoe, Gavin Sheridan and Tom Lyons, three of the most respected journalists in the country would concoct an article and falsely insert Denis O’Brien into it, knowing his reputation for suing all and sundry is ridiculous.

    But enough about all this aggro. It’s a lovely Spring day (in winter), the sun is shining and life is good. We should cherish the love we have, we should cherish the life we live, Cherish the love, cherish the life, cherish the love, Cherish the love we have, for as long as we both shall live, Cherish the love, cherish the life, cherish the love

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s09LuDYX12g

    1. Eoin

      I have been asked to clarify that “Kool and the Gang” is not a criminal enterprise. The “gang” is in fact a group of musicians, dancers and backing vocalists and their front man, Mr Kool is not, nor has ever been, involved in organised crime. I am sorry for any unintended implication to the contrary.
      Eoin.

  3. Frank

    Did they “leave” the SBP, or were they pushed ?
    As in, if they’re not in the employ of the SBP anymore, then if they lose the case, the SBP won’t be sued to high heaven ??
    Just asking..
    F.

    1. Eoin

      One of the bizarre aspects of this case is, Denis O’Brien is suing the publisher of the Sunday Business Post and NOT the individual journalists. In the past, as far as I can see, Denis has always sued the journalist as well as the publication. Also, the SBP is living hand-to-mouth, it’s probably loss-making despite the management claiming it’s not. The circulation figs for the second half of 2018 will be out next Thursday but I’d be surprised if it was selling more than 25,000 in the latter part of 2018 and now that Tom and Jack have gone, it’ll probably struggle to sell 20,000. Therefore, who’ll pay the legal costs and damages in this case? Does the SBP have the funds (if it loses)? What’s the libel insurance situation? Why is the SBP severely restricting its defences? They could have a field day on Denis O’Brien’s reputation which he’s suing to protect. Bizarre.

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