Dispute over Sean Fitzpatrick's wife's claim to interest in assets to be heard at High Court

Dispute over Sean Fitzpatrick's wife's claim to interest in assets to be heard at High Court
Sean Fitzpatrick

A dispute over the entitlement of the wife of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean Fitzpatrick to an interest in "substantial" assets held in his sole name will be heard at the High Court next year.

Nineteen assets are involved, the court heard on Friday.

At the centre of the dispute is a February 2009 loan agreement made between Anglo and Sean and Catriona Fitpatrick and their three children.

Mrs Fitzpatrick claims a clause in that agreement limits the recourse of State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (which acquired Anglo after its collapse) against herself and her children.

Mr FitzPatrick was adjudicated a bankrupt in 2010 with debts of €147m and assets said to be worth some €47m. He exited bankruptcy some three years ago.

After Mrs Fitzpatrick claimed entitlement in 2012 to various assets, the bankruptcy trustee Chris Lehane and IBRC took separate but related proceedings in 2014 arguing she has no legal, equitable or beneficial interest in assets in the sole name of her husband. Declan McGrath SC, for IBRC, described those assets as "substantial".

The Official Assignee claims the relevant clause in the 2009 agreement comprises a settlement of property by Sean Fitzpatrick, a bankrupt, that was not made in good faith and for valuable consideration and was in breach of the Bankruptcy Act. He wants the clause declared void and orders setting aside the purported settlement.

IBRC claims Mrs Fitzpatrick, of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, has no legal, equitable or beneficial interest in assets held in the sole name of her husband. It claims it was an implied term of the February 2009 loan agreement Mrs Fitzpatrick would not claim a legal, equitable or beneficial interest in assets held in Mr Fitzpatrick's sole name.

Alternatively, IBRC wants the court to grant rescission of the clause limiting its recourse against Mrs Fitzpatrick on grounds of alleged mistake and/or misrepresentation.

Ms Justice Marie Baker is case managing the proceedings and was told on Friday the sides had largely agreed on certain directions and exchange of legal documents necessary for a full "unitary" hearing.

After the court was told IBRC has concerns about discovery of documents and may seek further and better discovery, Jacqueline O’Brien SC, for Mrs Fitzpatrick, argued there could be no issue of further and better discovery, IBRC had been unable to identify even one document outstanding, discovery was ongoing from 2015 and there "must be an end to this".

Mr McGrath said his side has had to pursue discovery for years because "manifestly inadequate" discovery had been made.

The judge said she would address discovery later and approved the directions with a view to a hearing date in January or February next year. The precise date will be fixed later. The case is expected to last up to three weeks and to hear from five witnesses.

The sides have agreed ten issues required to be decided, including if IBRC is entitled to rescission of the relevant clause on grounds of mistake and/or misrepresentation. Other issues include whether the Official Assignee is entitled, under the Bankruptcy Act or conveyancing acts, to have the clause declared void or set aside.

Further issues include whether Mrs Fitzpatrick and her children can rely on the relevant clause and whether the Official Assignee can claim a contribution from them in relation to paying off monies due and owing under the 2009 loan agreement. An issue as to whether Mrs Fitzpatrick is prevented from claiming an interest in assets held in her husband's sole name was also identified.

During Friday's hearing, Mr McGrath said there had been another issue as to whether there should be an in-camera hearing of the issues raised but the sides had agreed that would not proceed. They also hoped to agree a statement concerning the source of funds for each of the 19 assets.


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