Inspectors appointed to investigate Independent News & Media (INM) by High Court

Inspectors appointed to investigate Independent News & Media (INM) by High Court

THE High Court has appointed inspectors to investigate affairs at Independent News & Media (INM).

Mr Justice Peter Kelly rejected a number of objections by the company's board and said the appointment of inspectors was in the public interest.

The inspectors will investigate a range of potentially "unlawful" behaviour including a suspected major data breach.

The appointments will not be made until Thursday at the earliest.

Legal saga

The Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) took the legal action over allegations that the emails of staff members at INM - the country’s largest media group - were accessed by a third-party firm without the employees’ knowledge.

The legal action began in the wake of INM's failed takeover bid for the Newstalk radio station (owned by INM’s largest shareholder Denis O’Brien) last year.

In March 2017, the ODCE asked INM to "produce books and records" in relation to the proposed takeover.

On March 23, the state watchdog announced it would be be seeking to appoint inspectors.

The ODCE alleged there was a culture of deference towards Mr O'Brien and suspected the affairs of the company were interfered with for his benefit.

The matter was fought for several months by INM – which owns titles such as the Irish Independent and the Sunday World – on the grounds that the presence of inspectors could damage the stock market-listed business.

INM claimed the ODCE's concerns related to a small number of historic events, which were individual and isolated, and argued that the application to have inspectors appointed was disproportionate, unjustified and would inflict immense damage on INM.

However, the company failed to block the case following a judicial review in June.

The arguments were heard over three days in July and Mr Justice Kelly took written submissions on the terms of reference for inspectors if they were to be appointed.


In his ruling today, Mr Justice Kelly said the "very serious" evidence merited the appointment of two inspectors - Senior Counsel, Seán Gillane and British company law solicitor, Richard Fleck.

He also rejected INM's wish for the terms of reference of the inspectors to be narrowed to exclude the suspected data breach.

The court directed that the inspectors' first interim report be furnished to the court by April 12, 2019.

The High Court agreed not to make a final order in the case until Thursday morning after an application by INM.

Lawyers for INM said they wanted time to consider the judgment.