Friday, May 12, 2023

High Court reporters

All 23 reports into the administration of Quinn Insurance are to be made publicly available following an application from the Irish Times to the President of the High Court.

The 2010 collapse of the company of bankrupt former billionaire Seán Quinn cost the taxpayer some €1 billion, with surcharges on all motor and home insurance policies funding its losses.

Quinn Insurance DAC was formally wound up earlier this week, 13 years after it was placed into administration.

Reporting in recent days by the Irish Times revealed accountants from Grant Thornton and lawyers who worked on the administration and litigation linked to it received some €100 million in fees.

While the paper had the 23rd and final administrators’ report to the court, it could not access the preceding 22 setting out detailed costs of the company’s administration.

When contacted by the Irish Times, Grant Thornton and its lawyers said they could not release the records, instead suggesting the documents “should be available” by asking the court.

The Courts Service said it does not keep possession of documents, such as these reports, that are submitted as exhibits.

In an application to the court on Friday, the Irish Times, represented by Hayes solicitor Jeremy Erwin, submitted that the administrators’ reports contained much information that was of public interest.

The public interest in the collapse of Quinn Insurance relates to more than just professional fees paid out during the administration process, he said.

High Court President Mr Justice David Barniville said there was “no hesitation on the part of the court” in providing the reports, subject to any redactions necessary for protecting privileged information.

The reports are classed as exhibits, which are not retained by the court service alongside copies of affidavits and other core court documents, he said.

The judge does not want the “impression to be given that I or the courts in general are impeding the provision of the reports”. Unless there is any suggestion otherwise, these records “should be publicly available”, he added.

He asked lawyers for the joint administrators to update the court in one week about progress in reviewing the documents with the intention of making them publicly available. He said he hopes a set of reports, containing appropriate redactions, will be available by next Friday.

Senior counsel Garvan Corkery, representing the joint administrators, said his clients will make every effort to have the reports ready by then.

His clients have “no objection in principle” to the release of the reports arising out of the “large and complex” administration.

However, he said many of these documents were provided to the court on a confidential basis for reasons of commercial sensitivity.

His clients needed a short period to review the reports in case there were commercially sensitive elements that need to be redacted, he said. The commercial sensitivity may have dissipated or disappeared entirely due to the passage of time, he added.

“I want to be clear that none of the confidentially touches in any way on fees paid to the administrators or their legal advisers,” he said.

“My clients have no interest whatsoever in withholding these reports,” he added.

Much of what is contained in the reports is already in the public domain, and any gaps will be “filled without delay”, he said.

The matter will return to court next Friday.

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