Tag Archives: Tom Lyons

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he was defamed by the newspaper on March 15, 2015, when My Lyons and other journalists reported over six pages on an unpublished PwC dossier into Ireland’s banks which had been given to the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen in November 2008.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

Journalist Tom Lyons (left) and businessman Denis O’Brien

 

This morning/afternoon.

The High Court, Dublin

Yesterday: Meanwhile in The High Court

uusinessman Denis O’Brien going into the High Court this morning

This afternoon, in the High Court, businessman Denis O’Brien finished giving evidence in his defamation case against the Sunday Business Post.

Mr O’Brien is claiming he was defamed by the newspaper on March 15, 2015, when the then business editor Tom Lyons 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”.

He also disputes the figures which Mr Lyons attributed to Mr O’Brien and has said Mr Lyons should have rang him on the Friday before the article was published and asked him if he was “overstretched” or if he had “over borrowed”.

Mr O’Brien has claimed Mr Lyons never put these specific claims to him.

The jury in the High Court last week heard about a separate article Mr Lyons co-wrote with Nick Webb in April 2012, while he was working at the Sunday Independent, which was about a different PwC report on Anglo Irish Bank, and which Mr O’Brien also said contained incorrect figures.

The print article was headlined: “Anglo’s top 13 buccaneer borrowers.”

Mr O’Brien, on Thursday, told the court that he believed he had taken no action over this 2012 Sunday Independent article which revealed his confidential bank details.

On Friday, Mr O’Brien then told the jury that, contrary to what he had said the day before, his understanding was that his spokesman James Morrissey had actually engaged in lengthy correspondence with the Sunday Independent over the 2012 article and that he had, he believed, received an apology from INM’s then group managing editor Michael Denieffe.

But this morning, the jury heard this apology had nothing to do with the article co-written by Mr Webb and Mr Lyons in 2012.

Michael McDowell SC, for the Sunday Business Post, read out correspondence between Mr Lyons and Mr Morrissey ahead of the 2012 article in which Mr Lyons sought to get some information from Mr O’Brien to put into the article.

Mr O’Brien agreed with Mr McDowell that the response from Mr Morrissey was essentially a “get lost” response. But Mr O’Brien said it was “polite”.

Mr McDowell also read out correspondence between Mr Morrissey and Mr Webb after the article was published.

Mr Morrissey had criticised Mr Lyons in his correspondence to Mr Webb and claimed Mr Lyons had acted unprofessionally.

Mr McDowell said this amounted to an “attack” on Mr Lyons.

Mr O’Brien said: “No it was pointing out the obvious.”

He said it was “ridiculous” to pose questions about his banking in the first place as he was never going to give any answers.

Mr McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that this represented the “height of hypocrisy”.

Mr McDowell said Mr O’Brien previously “went to some considerable length” in his evidence to say that the Sunday Business Post never contacted him about Mr Lyons’ story in 2015.

Mr McDowell asked how he could “reconcile” telling Mr Lyons and Mr Webb to “get lost” in 2012 with his criticism of Mr Lyons in 2015, saying the journalist didn’t contact him for comment – when Mr O’Brien would never have commented anyway.

Mr O’Brien said he was glad Mr McDowell mentioned the matter and again said Mr Lyons should have contacted him on the Friday evening before the Sunday Business Post article, and asked him specifically if he was “overstretched” and if he had “over borrowed”.

But when Mr McDowell asked him again if he would have responded to Mr Lyons, Mr O’Brien said: “The answer is no.”

Mr O’Brien said Mr McDowell was “mixing apples and oranges”.

Mr O’Brien said: “Why would any citizen of this country answer questions about their bank accounts?”

“Why would anyone discuss their private banking matters with a journalist… you’d want a bolt missing from your head to do that.”

He said it was “none of his business” and that if Mr Lyons asked him about this “visa card”, the answer would be the same: “It’s private”.

Going back to the 2012 Sunday Independent article, and the correspondence between Mr Morrissey and Mr Webb, in which Mr Morrissey accused Mr Lyons of being unprofessional and conducting himself in an unacceptable manner, Mr McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that he was now “whinging” in the High Court claiming he had been defamed when he was “quite happy to defame somebody else in correspondence”.

Mr McDowell put to Mr O’Brien that he was accusing Mr Lyons of unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour because he didn’t put a specific figure [about his banking] to Mr O’Brien – a figure he never intended on confirming, denying or correcting.

Mr O’Brien replied: “That’s correct.”

Mr McDowell put it to the Mr O’Brien: “You’ve told the jury that you wouldn’t answer the question.”

Mr O’Brien replied: “Whether the number was right or wrong, I wouldn’t have answered it.”

Mr McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that it was “utterly dishonest” of Mr Morrissey to defame Mr Lyons to his employers for failing to put an exact figure to Mr O’Brien when he knew Mr O’Brien wouldn’t comment.

Mr O’Brien said Mr Lyons got the wrong number and he shouldn’t have published any figure if it was inaccurate.

Mr McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that he didn’t see the PwC report on Anglo Irish Bank which the Sunday Independent article was based upon.

Mr O’Brien confirmed this.

McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that he then couldn’t have known if Mr Lyons quoted accurately from the PwC report or not. Mr O’Brien said: “No”.

Asked again why he believed Mr Lyons had been unprofessional in his conduct, Mr O’Brien replied: “Because he published the incorrect information.”

Asked again why he didn’t give any information to Mr Lyons, following on from his requests, Mr O’Brien replied: “Because it’s none of his business.”

Mr O’Brien repeated again that to ask about his banking affairs is “grossly unfair” and an “invasion of privacy”.

Mr O’Brien said whether the figure was right or wrong, he wouldn’t have commented on it.

Asking Mr O’Brien how wrong the Sunday Independent figure was, Mr O’Brien wouldn’t say and asked Mr McDowell if he was now trying to invade his banking details.

Mr O’Brien carried on refusing to tell Mr McDowell “how wrong” the figure in the Sunday Independent was.

He said: “I don’t mean to be rude but it’s my private banking matters. I have a right to privacy as a citizen, it’s grossly unfair.”

Mr McDowell further read out the response Mr Webb sent to Mr Morrissey in 2012 and into which he copied Declan Carlyle, who was an executive at INM at the time.

The jury heard Mr Webb told Mr Morrissey that his claim Mr Lyons had acted unprofessionally was “completely unacceptable” and that it was being rejected out of hand. Mr Webb said it was “baseless” and “defamatory” of Mr Lyons.

Mr Webb also said it was a “disgraceful slur” on Mr Lyons and he asked that Mr Morrissey “desist from disseminating this defamatory material forthwith”.

The jury also heard Mr Webb told Mr Morrissey that Mr Lyons had acted as he should have and it was he [Mr Morrissey] who gave “perfunctory answers”. Mr Webb asked Mr Morrissey if he’d like to send figures, they could run a clarification.

Mr O’Brien told Mr McDowell that he believed the latter comment was said “tongue in cheek”.

Mr McDowell asked Mr O’Brien if he had seen Mr Webb’s correspondence, in which he accused Mr O’Brien, via Mr Morrissey, of defaming Mr Lyons.

Mr O’Brien said he did.

Mr McDowell then asked Mr O’Brien how he then could have given evidence that he had got an apology from Mr Denieffe over the 2012 Sunday Independent article.

Mr O’Brien said: “Because Mr Morrissey told me that.”

Mr O’Brien said the correspondence in relation to Mr Denieffe was related to an entirely different matter. He said he had apologised to the court, that he was trying to be helpful last week and that he may have confused matters further – for which he was sorry.

Mr McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that he must have known there was no apology over the 2012 article.

Mr O’Brien said that, last week, he said he wasn’t sure about the apology and that he had said he would have to check – which he has since done and that is why Mr McDowell’s solicitor had been contacted about the matter overnight.

Mr McDowell said that, far from INM giving an apology to him, they [INM] gave him “both barrels” over to the suggestion Mr Lyons had behaved wrongly.

Mr O’Brien said: “I’m saying to you there was another matter and other correspondence which led to an apology.”

He also again repeated that Mr Lyons had no right to ring anybody up and ask them about their private banking matters.

He said it wouldn’t happen in the UK and it shouldn’t have happened in Ireland.

He said it was “extraordinary that this journalist would be that ballsy” to ask about his banking and then, Mr O’Brien claimed, get the numbers “wrong”.

Mr McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that he was refusing to divulge “how wrong” Mr Lyons was alleged to have been. He also said it was in the public interest to know about the insolvency of Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr O’Brien said it was his private business and said “we’re verging on voyerism, trying to find out what my banking details are, it’s not fair”.

Mr McDowell said the following to Mr O’Brien: “I’m going to put to you now that the fact that Anglo Irish Bank, at the time the PwC report was done, was hopefullsesy insolvent but pretending that it was solvent through the agency PWC report.

He added: “You were among the top 22 debtors of the Irish banking system at the time and one of the top 13 in Anglo Irish Bank, for which the taxpayer was going to carry the burden afterwards. Are you saying that that was an entirely private matter?”

Mr O’Brien said he was never a burden on any bank or IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank.

He added: “I became a customer of IBRC in 1990. I’m not responsible for them going into liquidation.”

Mr McDowell said Mr Lyons believed, and still believes, that the Irish public deserved to know that a huge amount of indebtedness was concentrated on a small number of people.

Mr O’Brien said they were going to disagree on this.

At one point Mr Justice Bernard Barton intervened to say the jury needed to fully understand a point which was being made by Mr McDowell.

Mr McDowell told Mr O’Brien he made a very serious complaint against Tom Lyons and his professional conduct in a letter, for failing to put a figure to Mr O’Brien – a figure which Mr O’Brien has since claimed was wrong, without now telling the court how wrong it is.

And, Mr McDowell said, Mr O’Brien is now complaining that he wasn’t contacted in 2015, in relation to the Sunday Business Post article, even though he would have likely said ‘no comment’.

Mr O’Brien said his first complaint is that Mr Lyons should never have published any number and, secondly, the figure that he did publish was “absolutely wrong”.

Mr O’Brien went on to compare the Sunday Independent and Sunday Business Post articles and said it was totally different to be called a “buccaneer” [in Sunday Independent] as opposed to being referred to as a member of a “gang” [in Sunday Business Post].

Mr McDowell read out the Oxford dictionary definition of “buccaneer”:

“A pirate, originally one operating in the Caribbean. A person who acts in a recklessly adventurous and often unscrupulous way, especially in business”.

Mr McDowell continued: “Are you seriously saying ‘buccaneer’ in the Sunday Independent was more complimentary than ‘gang’ in the Sunday Business Post?”

Mr O’Brien said he was. He said ‘buccaneer’ is the name of a sporting club in Galway and “not a derogatory term in my mind”.

He went on to say there was “no comparison” between the two articles and to compare them was like comparing “chalk and cheese”.

Mr McDowell also listed Mr O’Brien’s property interests in Ireland, the UK, Portugal and Spain – following on from Mr O’Brien giving evidence that he is not a property developer but a property investor.

At one point, Mr O’Brien quipped that Mr McDowell knew more about his property interests than he did.

Mr McDowell said he was depending on information in the public domain and Google.

Returning to the 2015 Sunday Business Post article, Mr McDowell put it to Mr O’Brien that, in 2008, PwC prepared a report for the Irish Government in which they indicated, among other things, first of all that the banks were claiming to be in rude health.

Secondly, in the report, PwC put together a list of 22 – not 21, not 23 – of people who they said were the top borrowers from the Irish banks.

Mr O’Brien said: “We don’t know this because I’ve never seen the PwC report.”

He said the court is “naked here today” because Mr Lyons destroyed his copy of the report after publication of his article.

Mr O’Brien claimed PwC would also never have used the words used by the newspaper to describe him.

Mr O’Brien said the article was a “hatchet job” and became “more salacious” as it continued over a number of pages in the newspaper.

Just before Mr O’Brien finished giving evidence, the judge again asked Mr O’Brien if it was his position that he basically told the Sunday Independent to get lost in 2012.

Mr O’Brien agreed this was the case and said his banking affairs were none of Mr Lyons’s business.

The judge asked Mr O’Brien if he would have taken the same approach if Mr Lyons contacted him in respect of the Sunday Business Post article.

Mr O’Brien said it would have depended on the question.

He said if he was told he would be described as a property developer and someone who had a detrimental effect on the country, that he was “overstretched”, he would have said that wasn’t true.

Mr Lyons has started to give evidence this afternoon.

Asked by Mr McDowell if he [Mr Lyons] believed that Mr O’Brien could have “brought down the country” when he wrote his article in the Sunday Business Post in 2015, Mr Lyons said: “No that’s ridiculous, no individual could bring down the country. That’s just ridiculous.”

Of his story based on the 2008 PwC report in the Sunday Business Post in 2015, Mr Lyons told the jury it was something which was “incredibly serious”, of “huge public interest” and that the newspaper took the matter “very, very seriously”.

He also said the list was created by PwC and the sequence of people was put together by PwC.

Asked why the Sunday Business Post reported the names of the 22 borrowers and their indebtedness contained in the 2008 PwC report, Mr Lyons said: “We felt that this was demonstrative of the concentrated risk in banks.”

He said it showed the banks were lending too much to too few people.

Asked if this was his judgement or PwC’s, Mr Lyons said it was PwC’s.

In relation to Mr O’Brien’s view that his banking interests are his private affairs and not of public interest, Mr Lyons recalled that Mr O’Brien mentioned his credit card details but went on to say this is not what the Sunday Business Post was reporting on in 2015.

Mr Lyons said he “couldn’t care less if Mr O’Brien pays for Netflix or Sky”.

He said the PwC report was about “big picture numbers” and that the report was paid for by taxpayers which the Government “used to say we’re not in trouble, let’s go with the banking guarantee, everything’s fine”.

He said the context of the report was the biggest financial crisis in the world, not just the biggest financial crisis in Ireland.

Mr Lyons said he accepted Mr O’Brien’s view but, in his opinion, the PwC report was an “important document prepared by the State into what happened in the banks and public interest trumps one man’s opinion”.

Mr Lyons also said that he and his editor Ian Kehoe did have a conversation about whether or not they should have included Mr O’Brien’s name in the list.

He said: “But we said either it was in the public interest or it wasn’t. He [Denis O’Brien] was in there, we had to leave him in there.”

He said the debate over whether to publish Mr O’Brien’s name or not came about because “it’s fair to say, he sues a lot of journalists”.

Mr Lyons said there was a “fear factor there around him”.

But, he said himself and Mr Kehoe decided: “no, we’ve got to be brave here, we’ve got to include him”.

He said they couldn’t leave Mr O’Brien out and treat him as a special case over any possible fears that to include him would harm their future careers.

To further contextualise his point, Mr Lyons looked directly at Mr O’Brien when he said, by way of an example, this could have been a real fear if he were to ever potentially go back to work in either Newstalk or Today FM – radio stations which are both owned by Mr O’Brien.

Mr Lyons said the newspaper “reported faithfully” what was in the PwC report.

The court has heard that the banking inquiry, which was taking place at the time of the publication of the Sunday Businss Post article in 2015, requested of Mr Lyons a copy of the PwC report.

But, at this point, Mr Lyons had already destroyed it, to protect his source.

Asked 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.”

The case continues.

Earlier: Like You Were Walking Onto A Yacht

Rollingnews

George Hook

Further to the suspension of George Hook from Newstalk…

Tom Lyons, Deputy Editor of the Sunday Business Post, was Business Editor at Newstalk in 2006 and 2007.

In yesterday’s paper, Mr Lyons wrote:

My own experience is this: in 2007, Hook banned me from appearing on his programme for having the effrontery to want to break a story. My mistake was to insist he aired extracts from a fascinating speech made by the country’s then richest man, Seán Quinn, about his life and times.

Hook declined. He is entitled to put out whatever he likes, but I would have been remiss as business editor not to try and get an exclusive story on air.

Hook never explained to me why he didn’t like the story, but I knew it would make page one of the papers the following day and that we were ahead of RTÉ.

My instructions from Newstalk, and directly from [Denis] O’Brien, were to break stories and I knew this was a good one.

Eventually Harte managed to get the story on air for a few minutes. Hook was professional on air but he was clearly furious.

Afterwards Harte informed me I was banned from the station’s most listened-to show. When I protested that this was unfair, he told me he was sorry but: “George is George.” I never appeared on The Right Hook again.

High Noon For Hook: Lyons On Newstalk (The Sunday Business Post)

Tom Lyons

Meanwhile…

On Facebook…

A page called Bring Back George Hook has, as of this morning, gained 1,153 likes.

Bring Back George Hook (Facebook)

Previously: Hook Suspended

From top: Denis O’Brien; yesterday’s Sunday Business Post

You may recall the Siteserv sale back in 2012.

Denis O’Brien owed Anglo Irish Bank hundreds of millions.

Siteserv owed Anglo Irish Bank €144 million.

Denis bought Siteserv debt-free for €45 million.

You will find a detailed background to the deal here.

Since then  a Commission of Investigation, led by High Court judge Brian Cregan, has been tasked with investigating the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien, and other matters.

Earlier this year Catherine Murphy, of the Soc Dems, submitted a 300-page statement to the Commission detailing her research into the sale.

The commission has since written to Ms Murphy saying, if she doesn’t reveal her sources, “it may not be possible to advance some of the issues raised” by her.

Further to this…

Yesterday.

In the Sunday Business Post.

Tom Lyons reported that an anonymous email sent to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and others – including the then Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and Maurice Keane, a non-executive director of IBRC – is to be investigated by the commission.

Mr Lyons reported:

A special email set up by an unknown party used an address called whistlebx@live.ie on April 5, 2012 at 12.20pm to make various allegations about the controversial sale of the business by IBRC to O’Brien a few weeks earlier.

The contents of the “DOB” email were previously posted online in the comments section of the website Broadsheet.ie but its contents received little attention at the time.

The comment was left under a Broadsheet post about the Siteserv sale on April 5, 2012, a few minutes after the email was sent to Mr Kenny.

‘Whistbleblower’ stated:

Regular entertaining of Anglo senior management by Denis O’Brien has always been a feature, but that has increased significantly since Mike Aynsley, Tom Hunnersen and DOB’s personal friend Richard Woodhouse have joined the Bank.

A few weeks ago DOB and his wife were seen on the town with Mike Anysley, Tom Hunnersen and their wives. Denis while he is in Ireland is driven around by Mike Coughlan (a former Anglo employee) and is a regular visitor to the Anglo offices in Burlington Road, and is down there this morning having a one to one with Mike.

Most worrying is that the management of DOB has been moved under Richard Woodhouse, a close personal friend of Denis. Then the Siteserv account is also moved over to Richard Woodhouse’s management.

Interesting DOB’s initial bid for Siteserve was too low to be included in the 2nd round of bidders and he was initially not included in the 2nd round. DOB was not the highest final bidder, but IBRC asked for a letter to be produced that showed that DOB’s lower bid was the best bid.

Another account that has been moved to Richard is the personal borrowings of Brian Harvey and DOB has promised (in support for supporting the DOB bid) is that he will arrange for Anglo to do a deal on Harvey’s debt. The independent consultant to Siteserv is a long friend of DOB (worked on Boundary – see below) and is a also a heavily indebted borrower of Anglo who DOB has also promised to sort out.

Then the management of the Niall McFadden/Boundary Capital relationship is also moved to Richard Woodhouse. Anglo now looking to sell the debt of Niall McFadden (a close friend of Denis O’Brien) to DOB for a fraction of the original amount to allow Niall McFadden fraustrate National Irish Bank’s bid to secure bankruptcy.

More worryingly, IBRC (when the case was being managed by the Personal Lending team) initially decides that forebearance is the best option in the management of the Tony O’Reilly relationship (a bitter foe of DOB). Then suprisingly, the case management is moved to Richard Woodhouse, and the new team decides to take a more agressive stance on O’Reilly with the case expected to go legal shortly.

Further to this…

Mr Lyons also reported yesterday:

An internal review, however, was carried out at the time by IBRC into the allegations made in the email in a project code-named Rain.

A position paper was prepared to help the bank respond to questions relating to it. This was circulated both inside and outside the bank in response to queries about the email, which was in circulation between senior politicians, civil servants and journalists.

IBRC concluded that allegations in the email were either false or a misinterpretation of events. James Shaw, group operations in IBRC, carried out a review of the bank’s computer systems which failed to find who sent the email.

Kroll, the corporate investigations firm best known for tracking the fortunes of Saddam Hussein and the late Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, was then appointed by the bank to investigate.

The bank suspected an employee of the bank was behind the email, as parts of it described the movements of O’Brien and IBRC chief executive Mike Aynsley. Kroll however was unable to determine where the email originated from.

…IBRC produced a paper in response to this allegation which says:

“It is in the public domain that Mr Denis O’Brien is a significant borrower of the bank. It is also in the public domain that his outstanding loans are performing and have been significantly reduced by way of repayments over the past two years. As with any material borrowing relationship in the bank, Mike Aynsley, group chief executive, is closely involved in if, how and when these outstanding loans are repaid. Mr Aynsley has met with Mr O’Brien on a number of occasions in this capacity.”

The O’Brien dinner referred to in the email was not attended by Hunersen – but was attended by Aynsley and Richard Woodhouse (an IBRC executive).

Former minister for justice Michael McDowell later mentioned this dinner in a speech in the Seanad in July 2016.

Aynsley responded to McDowell by saying:

“The anonymous blog that Mr McDowell referred to is just plain wrong on just about everything it raises, except for the fact that there was a dinner,” Aynsley said.

The purpose of the dinner was to mark Aynsley defeating O’Brien in a charity weight-loss competition. Alan Dukes, the chairman of IBRC, he said was aware of the matter and had no objection.

Concerning Anglo’s ‘hard-line on Tony O’Reilly, IBRC, in its position paper, stated:


“There is no evidence to show that IBRC took an unnecessarily hard line with O’Reilly. The bank instead pursued a strategy of trying to reach a consensual solution with him.”

Anonymity and allegations: the IBRC Commission of Investigation (Sunday Business Post)

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Tom Lyons tweetz:

So this has arrived. A new book on the Moriarty Tribunal and Denis O’Brien. Looks like something else. A steal at €50…

Um.

Meanwhile…

From The Irish Times letters page on March 25, 2011 – three days after the publication of the Moriarty Tribunal.

The media frenzy and what it is generating reminds me of the movie Twelve Angry Men and the book To Kill a Mockingbird. The political and media piranhas have smelled their victims’ blood and in the low moral ground where they play out their pretensions, the actors in this dreary drama are set to play their pretentious parts!

At stake is one of life’s most important psychological and emotional conditions: reputations.

In Twelve Angry Men, the so-called “evidence” was hearsay, innuendo and prejudicial malicious gossip. It took one man’s love of justice to convince his biased peers of the accuseds’ innocence.

After the tribunal’s 14 years of forensic foraging and a bill of approximately €250,000,000, Denis O’Brien has admirably stated his constitutional right under Article 40 to a good name.

We shall soon all witness how much as a nation we love justice or gossip! Having lived here most of my life I won’t hold my breath.

John J May

Reaction to the Moriarty Tribunal (Irish Times letters page, March 25, 2011)

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From top: The Cruise Park housing estate in Tyrellstown in West Dublin this morning; Yesterday’s Sunday Business Post

Journalist Fearghal O’Connor, in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, reported how more than 200 families renting homes in Tyrrelstown, Dublin 15 are facing eviction.

Twinlite – a property company owned by developers Michael and Richard Larkin – sent letters informing the families that they have to leave the properties, after a Goldman Sachs vulture fund bought an €89million loan secured on the homes by the Larkins, from Ulster Bank.

The €89million loan was secured on Tyrrelstown’s local shopping centre, ‘a significant’ land bank in the area, and the 208 houses in Cruise Park which the Larkins rented out.

Mr O’Connor reported:

“The Larkins, Davy [Stockbrokers] and Goldman Sachs signed a profit-sharing agreement that will see all the houses sold and the shopping centre ultimately refinanced to allow a Goldman exit.”

Some families have been renting the homes for up to 10 years.

Further to this, business editor of the Sunday Business Post Tom Lyons spoke to Keelin Shanley on RTÉ One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke Show earlier, about the wider implications of this move.

Keelin Shanley: “This is just one incident here. I heard David Hall, on Morning Ireland earlier today, talking about a potential 47,000 homes that could be in a similar situation. I mean, is that accurate?

Tom Lyons: “I would have thought, it sounds, if anything, conservative. If you look at the type of numbers we’re talking about, you know, we know that IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, you know they offloaded about €20billion, Ulster Bank, it would be €9billion, Nama, sales to actual vulture funds, in Ireland, you would have thought that’s somewhere around €10-€15billion and then you’re looking at Dankse, KBC, Bank of Scotland Ireland, that’s another €5billion. These loans are not only secured on people’s homes, they’re also secured on investment properties and SMEs. But because everything is linked together, you know, if you see a vulture fund move against an SME, chances are they’re going to default on their mortgage. If you don’t have a job, or your company’s been taking away from you or you’re working for one of these companies which suddenly you find yourself being fired, you can see that this could have a massive ripple effect.”

Shanley: “Massive.”

Lyons: “Far beyond just the straightforward high residential mortgages being acquired by a vulture fund.”

Shanley: “And Tom, just to be absolutely clear, I mean if we’re talking David Hall’s figure, say, 47,000, you think it could be even more. Some of those mortgages, they will have people in the homes, they are paying their mortgages, are those people safe?”

Lyons: “Well, in theory, like there are protections around your home. But it’s very easy to default and we’re talking about, if you look at AIB or Bank of Ireland – they can see ‘we’re here for the longer term’ and whereas if you’re talking about a vulture fund, these are companies which are acting on 3, to 5, to 7-year horizons.

Shanley: “They’re a quick hit, so if for example, you know have your mortgage arranged, you can afford it, you are paying it, but in the past you had some issues around it, are you vulnerable?”

Lyons: “You should be OK if it was in the past. But if it’s meant that there are payments outstanding, suddenly these funds can start saying ‘hang on, these are your missed payments, you need to start paying for these’. And that could put people under pressure. There are any number of things that could put people under pressure but these funds have got relatively short-term horizons and they have aggressive investors who are looking for big returns.”

Shanley: “And this is the beginning, would you say, of what we’re seeing here?”

Lyons:I would have thought it is just the beginning and I think it’s something that was absolutely inevitable because of the way that we decided to solve the crisis which was to ‘let’s sell everything to these big funds’. These big funds, they’re not here for the long term and they need big returns to justify the risks.”

Shanley: “So you’re saying it’s Government policy. The Times is reporting today that 90% of asset disposals by Nama were to vulture funds like this so it’s vast quantities of money.”

Lyons: “It’s absolutely vast, it’s tens of billions ultimately when you add it altogether. I mean it has been a massive transfer of money, assets, loans and power to a relatively small group of funds, probably seven or eight of them and they are now incredibly powerful. They can do things, like they now own, in certain parts of Dublin, they would own 80% of apartment blocks. So if you’ve got that, you’ve got market dictating power and there’s things you can do with rents, there’s things you can do with terms of deciding when and where do we sell, they own an awful lot of sites, so they can decided when and where do we start building the new houses.”

Shanley: “Any easy solution? We’re going to be talking about this later in the programme but, at this point, is it just you’re on a  roller coaster or is there a way to halt this?”

Lyons: “Well we decided a number of years ago that this, we’re going to put ourselves on this roller coaster and trust these funds are going to act correctly, and ethically, and it’s a fact that many of them have but as they get towards the end of their funding cycle, when they’re looking at returns, I think they’re going to start taking much tougher and tougher decisions and we’re really getting into that period of time round about now.”

Meanwhile, separately…

Also in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, Mr Lyons reported that Nama sold Dublin’s Clarence Hotel to a consortium including Bono and the Edge without inviting any other bidders to tender for the hotel.

Mr Lyons reported:

The hotel is understood to have been sold for less than the total debts of the company which previously owned it. Last year, another State agency, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, sold U2’s former recording studio for €450,000 to the band without a public tender.

“The transaction was later investigated by the Public Accounts Committee amid allegations the site could have fetched more on the open market, a claim denied by the DDDA.”

Good times.

Listen back to Today with Sean O’Rourke in full here

Bono and Edge buy Clarence Hotel in off-market Nama deal (Sunday Business Post, Tom Lyons)

200 Dublin families face eviction in vulture deal (Sunday Business Post, Fearghal O’Connor)

UPDATE: 

Richard Larkin has spoken to Joe Duffy on Liveline this afternoon and is disputing the story in the Sunday Business Post.

He said:

“We don’t want to be in the rental business anymore. The only way to do this is to sell the houses. And we’re not selling them off in one big bunch to some investor. We’re selling them off one-by-one to families who are coming in here, who want to make their home here in Tyrrelstown.”

“As a developer we don’t have any debt at all. This rental property is held in a property fund, called EPS, that we manage the assets for. Now that company has a loan that they owe to Goldman Sachs but Goldman Sachs don’t know anything about this. I mean the first thing Goldman Sachs heard about this was on Sunday when the read the Sunday Business Post.

This idea that somehow a deal was cooked up in a back room of this big bad American bank to kick people out of their houses is absolutely nonsense and if it had checked, they would have been told that and they wouldn’t have ran this story and they wouldn’t have been scaring people…”

“…There’s not going to be mass evictions at all. A lot of people who have received notices their leases are not going to be renewed have already found new accommodation and have moved, others have agreed to buy their properties and have wanted to buy their properties  from us and they will be staying exactly where they are.”

We’re talking a very small number of people and nowhere near the numbers that were thrown around by the Business Post.”

“We’ve gone to all of them and we’ve said, look, you know, it’s not always possible, people don’t always have the ability to get a mortgage but anyone who can and who wants to own their own home, we will not put it on the market we will sell it directly to them, there will be no bidding wars, there will be no anything.”

“… There’s no evictions, first of all, their lease won’t be renewed, some people have six months left on their lease, some people have four months left on their lease, you know.

“But the other thing to point out is any of these properties, where the leases are not being renewed, the day comes at the end of the lease, if we haven’t agreed to sell that house to somebody, we’re not going to tell the tenant he has to get out. We’ll say to the tenant, ‘right you can remain there month-to-month, it’s ok, until we can find a buyer, or until you can find alternative accommodation, or until the tenant can [buy it].”

“…Their lease is going to expire and it’s not going to be renewed so if you want to call that eviction, you can call it an eviction but I mean, you know, we’re not telling them, get out of your house, we’re saying in six months time, when your lease is up, you need to find somewhere else to live.”

Listen back to Liveline here