Go-ahead for inspectors could damage INM, court told
Belfast Telegraph owner Independent News & Media (INM) has told the High Court in Dublin the appointment of inspectors would cause very significant risks to the company and its shareholders.
The media group is opposing an application by the corporate watchdog for the appointment of inspectors to investigate a range of corporate governance issues, including a major suspected data breach in 2014.
Paul Gallagher SC, for INM, said the media group feared there would be a very serious risk of disruption to its business if the appointment is approved.
INM is concerned its reputation will be affected and shareholder value damaged by an inquiry not directed at any current aspect of its operations, he said.
Mr Gallagher was speaking on the third day of a hearing before the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly. INM is opposing the appointment of inspectors, but the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) argues this is necessary as it has gone as far as it can with its enquiries using the powers available to it.
Mr Justice Kelly said there was no surprise in what Mr Gallagher was saying. He said it was bad news for the ODCE to be conducting an investigation and worse news for it to apply for the appointment of inspectors.
"It doesn't work to the company's benefit for an application of this sort to be made," he said.
The court previously heard INM had asked that if inspectors are appointed, their remit should be "tightly drawn" and should not overlap with an ongoing inquiry being conducted by the Data Protection Commissioner and a potential inquiry being considered by the Central Bank.
The ODCE wants inspectors to investigate the "interrogation" of data taken from INM's premises by an external company in 2014.
The interrogation was authorised by then INM chairman Leslie Buckley, who claims he was looking for information relating to a legal services contract he wished to renegotiate as part of a "cost reduction exercise".
However, evidence uncovered by the ODCE suggests the data interrogation was for another purpose and there are fears the names of journalists, barristers, and former INM executives were used to search the data.