Tag Archives: Denis O’Brien

This evening.

The jury found that articles published in the newspaper on March 15, 2015, meant that the story of Mr O’Brien’s borrowings and the amount of the borrowings was telling and disturbing and that Mr O’Brien was massively overstretched and faced huge financial pressure in November 2008.

But the jury found none of this was defamatory of Mr O’Brien.

They were deliberating for just over seven hours.

Mr O’Brien must now pay the costs of the case, which lasted for 17 days in the High Court.

Boom.

Denis O’Brien loses defamation action against The Sunday Business Post (RTÉ)

Meanwhile

Earlier

From top: Tom Lyons and Ian Kehoe arrive at the High Court this morning.

This morning/afternoon

The High Court, Dublin.

More as we get it

Jury In O’Brien Defamation Case Given Option Of Majority Verdict (Newstalk)

Rollingnews



From top: Ian Kehoe, Tom Lyons and Denis O’Brien arrive at the High Court today

This afternoon.

The High Court, Dublin.

Justice Bernard Barton is summing up his thoughts to the jury before they retire to consider a verdict in Denis O’Brien’s libel trial against the Sunday Business Post over articles on the 2008 banking crisis.

The ‘sheet‘s Olga Cronin is live tweeting from the court and can be followed here.

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

Denis O’Brien arrives at The High Court this afternoon

 

This morning/afternoon.

The High Court.

The ‘sheet‘s Olga Cronin is live tweeting from the conclusion of Denis O’Brien’s libel case against the Sunday Business Post about articles on a 2008 Government-commissioned report by PwC on Ireland’s top 22 borrowers and can be followed here.

More as Olga gets it.

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

From top: Michael McDowell SC with Journalist Tom Lyons; Denis O’Brien with Luán Ó Braonáin SC at the High Court last week.

This morning.

The High Court, Dublin.

In the libel trial between Denis O’Brien and The Sunday Business Post

The ‘sheet‘s Olga Cronin was live tweeting from the court…

Update:

Paul O’Higgins SC [for Denis O’Brien] said that Mr O’Brien was clearly a wealthy man, written about in newspapers and involved in a certain amount of litigation but he told the jurors they could not make a judgment based on any such factor.

He said Mr O’Brien was not “coming the heavy” to destroy people. He said Mr O’Brien could have sued the former editor Ian Kehoe and former business editor Tom Lyons personally, but he did not do that.

He claimed Mr McDowell’s speech was not short of words but that very few of them dealt with what the case was about and said it was not about most of the things the defence claimed it was about, but was much more complex.

Mr O’Higgins accused the newspaper of presenting the articles in a sensationalistic, heavily coloured “get up” designed to wow the reader from the front page.

He said Mr O’Brien claims the message coming from the articles was that the businessman was one of the borrowers most to blame for the destruction of the Irish banking system and the subsequent bail out.

It was irrelevant if the newspaper did not intend to convey that meaning.

Lawyers deny O’Brien ‘coming the heavy’ for SBP (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

From top: Denis O’Brien and his barrister Luán Ó Braonáin; Ian Kehoe (left), former editor of The Sunday Business Post, and journalist Tom Lyons (right)

This morning/afternoon.

The High Court.

Questioning has continued of Ian Kehoe , former editor of The Sunday Business Post in the libel action taken by Denis O’Brien over articles on the 20018 banking crisis published in the newspaper in 2015.

The ‘sheet‘s Olga Cronin is live tweeting from the High Court and can be followed here.

More as Olga gets it.

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

Denis O’Brien (top) and Ian Kehoe (above) arriving at the High Court today

This morning/afternoon.

The High Court, Dublin

Ian Kehoe, the former editor of The Sunday Business Post is being questioned by Denis O’Brien’s barrister Luán Ó Braonáin about articles on the banking crisis published in the paper in 2015. The ‘sheet‘s Olga Cronin is live tweeting from the High Court and can be followed here.

UPDATE:



Rollingnews/RTÉ/The Law Library

This morning.

The High Court, Dublin

Businessman Denis O’Brien arriving for further hearings in his case against The Sunday Business Post over articles published in the newspaper on March 15, 2015, which detailed a 2008 report by accountants PwC into Ireland’s banks and their top 22 borrowers.

Legal arguments are currently taking place without the jury present.

The ‘sheet‘s Olga Cronin is live tweeting from the High Court and can be followed here.

More as we get it.

Leah Farrell/RollingNews

UPDATE:

Denis O’Brien (top), his barrister Paul O’Higgins SC  (above) and Tom Lyons, former business editor of The Sunday Business Post

Today.

In the High Court.

Paul O’Higgins SC, for Denis O’Brien, continued to cross-examine the former business editor of the Sunday Business Post Tom Lyons before the former editor of the newspaper Ian Kehoe started to give evidence.

Mr O’Brien is claiming he was defamed by the newspaper on March 15, 2015, when My Lyons and other journalists reported over six pages on an unpublished PwC dossier into Ireland’s banks which had been given to the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen in November 2008.

The newspaper reported that the PwC report revealed 22 men and their associated companies owed Irish banks €25.6billion when the property bubble collapsed.

Mr O’Brien was number ten on the list of 22.

One of Mr O’Brien’s complaints is that he was wrongly “lumped” in with a “gang” of “developer kings”.

This evening, Ann O’Loughlin, in The Irish Examiner, reports:

Mr O’Higgins also played an interview given by Mr Lyons to RTE’s This Week radio programme on March 15th 2015, the day the articles were published.

Mr Lyons denied that showed his attitude in 2015 was that a small group of the biggest bank borrowers had disappeared off “into the sunset” and left the people of Ireland “holding the baby” at the time of the financial crisis in 2008.

He said he made no reference to Mr O’Brien during the interview and had no opportunity to outline what was said in the articles about Mr O’Brien, which was his loans were performing in 2008 and he went on to repay all his debts.

The interviewer had asked him, before beginning to record the interview, not to make any reference to Mr O’Brien because the lawyers had said “not to go near him”, he said.

Articles in newspaper were about Ireland not Denis O’Brien, former editor tells trial (Ann O’Loughlin, The Irish Examiner)

Denis O’Brien’s barrister Paul O’Higgins SC and journalist Tom Lyons

Today in the High Court, Paul O’Higgins SC, for Denis O’Brien, is continuing to cross-examine the former business editor of the Sunday Business Post Tom Lyons.

Judge Bernard Barton told the jury at the outset of this morning’s proceedings that it’s likely he will give them their instructions next Wednesday.

Mr O’Higgins told Mr Lyons that he wanted to go through the details of the SBP articles – spread over six pages and about a November 2008 PwC report on Ireland’s biggest borrowers – from March 15, 2015.

In respect of page one, Mr O’Higgins asked Mr Lyons about his and his then editor Ian Kehoe’s decision to write the strapline ‘Confidential: The files they don’t want you to see”.

He put it to Mr Lyons that, according to the SBP, the “they” was supposed to be a reference for “the Government”.

Mr Lyons confirmed this.

Mr O’Higgins asked if that was the SBP’s position, why didn’t they “say that”. Mr O’Higgins asked why they didn’t make the word “confidential” smaller and write “The ‘Government’ files they don’t want you to see”.

Mr Lyons said they thought their headline sufficiently represented their story. He also said it was “clear from the articles” who commissioned the PwC report – the Government.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that there was a serious crisis in September – before PwC could do a full evaluation on what Ireland’s bank securities were worth. He put it to Mr Lyons that the Government considered that it had to “move”.

Mr Lyons said the Government “didn’t have a full picture of what was going on” until “suddenly one day” they realised that Anglo Irish Bank was “within hours of going under and other banks were close behind it”.

Mr Lyons said then, on September 30, 2008, night of the bank guarantee, with “very unclear information” the Government decided that the entire country would guarantee the banks.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that this was “potentially a very costly thing from the Government’s point of view”. Mr Lyons agreed and said Ireland guaranteed something like €440million.

Mr Lyons agreed with Mr O’Higgins that people were being told this was a “liquidity problem”, as opposed to a “solvency problem” and that “the banks were grand”.

But he said “more sophisticated” people knew more than the public. He said, as an example, businessman Dermot Desmond, wrote a letter within weeks of the guarantee saying “this guarantee isn’t going to solve this” and that the problem was greater than everyone thought.

Mr O’Higgins recalled a RTE Prime Time interview given by the then Financial Regulator Patrick Neary who told those watching that “Ireland’s banks were the best capitalised banks in the world or Europe”.

Mr Lyons said he remembered it and how it sent out the message “everything is grand”.

Mr O’Higgins suggested to Mr Lyons that there was “significant scepticism” surrounding this at the time.

Mr Lyons said he didn’t agree entirely and said when people heard – from leading people in finance and politics – that the entire country was backing the banks “I don’t think everyone would be skeptical, I think some people would be skeptical.”

Mr O’Higgins said, following the guarantee, “most banks recovered briefly and then began to fall again”.

Mr Lyons said he wouldn’t say Anglo Irish Bank recovered. He said “they were fiddling the books” and recalled how the lender was “getting €7billion from Irish Life & Permanent”.

“There was an arrangement between Anglo and Irish Life & Permanent which made it appear that Anglo Irish Bank’s customer deposits were €7.2billion greater than they really were.”

He said: “Anglo was lying to everyone, it was lying to the stock market, it was lying to the public, it was lying to anyone who dealt with it.”

He also mentioned there had been subsequent convictions in respect of this.

Mr O’Higgins suggests that the newspaper’s articles main focus was on Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Lyons disagreed and said there might have been more focus on Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland but this was because they were bigger banks. He said, for example, EBS was a smaller entity so there was perhaps less coverage about it.

Mr O’Higgins put it Mr Lyons that a lot of information about the banks was known publicly in 2012 – and that a lot was actually known from 2009.

Mr Lyons asked him to specify what information he was referring to.

Mr O’Higgins said he was referring to “issues in relation to the fact the banks were in much more trouble than they thought” and that “there had been a series of peculiarities in Anglo Irish Bank”.

Mr Lyons indicated that the detail in the PwC report about which he was reporting – and, by extension, the Sunday Business Post articles – wasn’t known.

Mr O’Higgins asked Mr Lyons if he believed everyone “dutifully reads all their Sunday papers from beginning to end”.

Mr Lyons said for a paper like the Sunday Business Post, which tends to be read by people who are in business, he suggested they would.

Mr O’Higgins put to Mr Lyons that this was “interesting” and asked “so it wouldn’t matter” what page a story was placed on – front page, back page, etc – “because it’s all going to be read”.

Mr Lyons said: “What I’m saying is, when it’s a good story, our readers will follow it through.”

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that the hypothesis of his articles was that the PwC report “painted everything in rosy terms when it was nuclear”.

Mr Lyons said, based on his reading of the report, it painted Ireland in “big trouble” and that it stated Ireland could lose €10.6billion.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that he was saying that the PwC report “wasn’t worth the paper it was written on”.

Mr Lyons replied: “No, it was clearly worth something.” Mr Lyons said what the report was, was “overly optimistic”.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that either he was saying the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen – in November 2008 – was “well warned and used the PwC report to tell the truth to the Dail” or he was saying “PwC came nowhere near to describe to the scale of the problem”.

Mr O’Higgins told Mr Lyons he “can’t have it both ways”.

Mr Lyons said the PwC report did come nowhere near the scale of the problem and that this is clear because of the subsequent €64billion EU/IMF bailout.

Mr O’Higgins raised the fact that the PwC report identified five high-risk borrowers. Mr O’Higgins suggested that the point of the SBP articles was to suggest it was “ludicrous” to identify five when it was clear these people “nuked” Irish society.

Mr O’Higgins asked Mr Lyons if he believed PwC was “right or wrong” to identify five high-risk borrowers.

Mr Lyons told Mr O’Higgins, rightly or wrongly, the PwC report did identify five high-risk borrowers.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that he had a degree in history and economics and asked if he could understand his question: was the PwC report right in identifying “only” five high-risk borrowers.

Mr Lyons said: “Was it right or wrong? It did.”

Mr O’Higgins quipped that Mr Lyons might “not get a fifth journalist of the years award” if his language skills drop.

Michael McDowell SC, for the Sunday Business Post, told Mr O’Higgins there was “no need to be rude”.

Mr O’Higgins asked the question again.

Mr Lyons said: “It was wrong. Obviously there were more than five [high-risk borrowers].”

Mr O’Higgins asked when he [Mr Lyons] said it was wrong that there were “only” five borrowers in the high-risk category, was he saying this was right or wrong.

Mr Lyons replied: “I’m saying this is what PWC said.”

Mr O’Higgins asked Mr Lyons why did he “waste so many words” and not just say “PwC identified five high-risk borrowers” as opposed to “PwC only identified five high-risk borrowers”.

Mr Lyons said it was a matter for the jury.

Mr O’Higgins asked Mr Lyons about his use of the term “telling and disturbing” when he was referring to the numbers contained in the PwC report and the “individual stories”.

He asked Mr Lyons why the numbers were “telling and disturbing”.

Mr Lyons said because the numbers were “very big” and that it was “disturbing” that anyone would owe so much money to a State-owned bank which had been “nationalised, had committed fraud, and had cooked the books”.

Asked about the “individual stories” being “disturbing”, Mr Lyons said it was disturbing to think anyone would owe very large amounts of money to a bank which had been nationalised, committed massive fraud and “had essentially been shown to have lied left, right and centre”.

Mr O’Higgins asked Mr Lyons if he was saying it was “disturbing” to owe money to Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Lyons clarified he wasn’t speaking about “every borrower” from Anglo Irish Bank”.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that much of what he had reported in the Sunday Business Post articles of 2015 was in an article he co-wrote in the Sunday Independent in 2012 with Nick Webb – about Anglo Irish Bank’s top 13 borrowers.

Mr Lyons said not all of the 13 people in the Sunday Independent article made it into the list of 22 drawn up by PwC. He mentioned Paul Coulson as an example whom Mr Lyons said was “like Mr O’Brien a successful, respected businessman”.

Mr O’Higgins asked Mr Lyons “what was wrong with his [Mr O’Brien’s] borrowings from Anglo?”.

Mr Lyons said: “From Denis O’Brien’s perspective there was nothing wrong with his borrowings from Anglo Irish Bank.”

Mr Lyons said from the public’s perspective Anglo Irish Bank was a bank which had been nationalised and committed fraud. He said that was “disturbing”.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Lyons that yesterday Mr McDowell SC, for the Sunday Business Post, asked him [Mr Lyons] if his articles were defamatory and Mr Lyons said no.

Mr O’Higgins put to Mr Lyons: “You’re saying that even though the individual stories are ‘telling and disturbing’ …you’re saying that’s not reflecting on the person or not casting a shadow on the persons concerned.”

Mr Lyons said: “No.”

Mr Lyons said what happened in Anglo Irish Bank wasn’t Mr O’Brien’s fault.

He added: “Sure he hadn’t a clue.”

The case continues.

Update:

Earlier: ‘A Crazy Conspiracy’

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