Belfast Telegraph

Collapsed Presbyterian Mutual Society chiefs will not become company directors again

By Alan Erwin

Six representatives of the collapsed Presbyterian Mutual Society have agreed not to act as company directors for periods of up to six years, the High Court heard today.

Undertakings given by each of the men has led to a resolution of disqualification proceedings against them.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment was seeking to have them declared unfit to run a company over their alleged role in the PMS.

But on the eve of a planned two-week hearing, a judge was asked to dismiss the case against five directors and the chief executive by consent.

Michael Humphreys QC, for DETI, revealed: "Each of the respondents has given an undertaking not to act as a director for a particular period of time.

"The Department can accept undertakings when it's expedient and in the public interest. That's the agreed position."

Mr Justice Deeny requested the details for each representative, stating that the public is entitled to know. 

Under the terms of the settlement Colin Ferguson, who acted as chief executive of the PMS, has agreed to a six-year period.

Four of the directors, David James Clements, David McConaghy, Albert McCormick and Sidlow Samuel McFarland, gave undertakings not to act for four years.

The fifth director, Philip Black, has agreed to a three-year period.

Nearly 10,000 Presbyterians lost access to their savings when the Society was forced into administration in November 2008 after a run on its funds.

A rescue package underwritten by the Westminster government and the Northern Ireland Executive was agreed in 2011.

DETI had made a series of allegations of unfitness against some of the directors.

Before the resolution was announced it had been claimed that orders were only being sought against some elderly directors because they are "soft targets".

Respondents in the case included at least three men in their seventies with significant health problems. Two of them are retired clergymen.

Mr Ferguson was included in the action by DETI who claimed he acted as a de facto director in approving loans and lending money.

Previously the court was told he had suffered a serious illness which led to him spending a period in intensive care.

A contested hearing had been due to get underway at the High Court on Monday.

Although the directors were insured against being being liable for costs, informed sources predicted the Department could have been facing a legal bill of up to £500,000 had it ultimately lost.

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