Independent News & Media denies a 'culture of deference' towards O'Brien
Belfast Telegraph publisher Independent News & Media (INM) has rejected a suggestion by the corporate watchdog that a "culture of deference" existed within the company towards its largest shareholder Denis O'Brien.
The Dublin-based company, which also publishes the Sunday Life, belfasttelegraph.co.uk and nijobfinder.co.uk, has also rejected a suggestion by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) that former chairman Leslie Buckley, who was Mr O'Brien's nominee to the INM board, had "untrammelled authority".
Paul Gallagher SC, for INM, told the High Court in Dublin there was not any basis for the assertions.
He said the two criticisms were of considerable concern and it was difficult to envisage a more damaging set of remarks for the board.
The barrister said INM had a board of very experienced directors who were people of "unimpeachable integrity". He was speaking during the hearing of an application by the ODCE for inspectors to be appointed to the media group to investigate a range of corporate governance concerns.
These include a major suspected data breach in 2014 and claims senior INM executives came under pressure from Mr Buckley to pay an inflated price for Newstalk, a radio station owned by Mr O'Brien.
INM is opposing the application, which it says is unwarranted and will have a damaging impact on the company.
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The application is being heard by Mr Justice Peter Kelly. The ODCE, which has been investigating matters at the company for well over a year, says it had reached a point where inquiries cannot be advanced further without the appointment of inspectors.
The court heard the data breach issue is already being investigated by the Data Protection Commissioner and that the Central Bank was considering investigating another matter raised by the ODCE, concerns that "inside information" was shared with Mr O'Brien by Mr Buckley.