Ex-Bord Gáis chief settles court action

FORMER Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE) chief executive Gerry Walsh has settled on undisclosed terms his High Court action in which he claimed entitlement to an additional €2 million sum from the company arising from a letter signed by former BGE chairman Michael Conlon.

Mr Walsh previously received up to €2 million from BGE during his seven-year tenure as chief executive when his salary more than doubled between 2000 and 2007. He received €184,000 in 2000 and his salary was increased every year until it reached €432,000 in 2007, when his contract expired.

In his court proceedings, he claimed he was also entitled, arising from a letter signed by Mr Conlon in November 2000, to avail of the company’s Early Retirement Scheme (ERS) which, the court heard, would give him benefits exceeding €2m.

The ERS provides for a year’s pay at the end of employment and half pay from 2007 until age 60 when a pension would be paid based on his final salary (€432,000).

Some €50-60m and perhaps more had been paid out under the BGE ERS to retired executives, the court was told.

If not entitled to the ERS, the court heard Mr Walsh would in any event be entitled to a pension from the company based on his service with it since 1984 and his salary of €115,000 prior to becoming chief executive.

The case opened before Mr Justice Bryan McMahon earlier this week but later settled on undisclosed terms.

Mr Walsh claimed Mr Conlon had agreed he was entitled to the ERS and had signed a letter to that effect on November 14, 2000, after first securing legal advice from O’Flynn Exhams Solicitors that he had the authority of the BGE Board to sign it.

In opposing the action, BGE denied the claims and argued the letter was not binding on it.

Mr Dowling said BGE seemed to be suggesting Mr Conlon engaged in “some kind of frolic” outside the scope of his authority and that was why he had been joined to the case. If BGE was correct, and Mr Walsh’s side insisted it was not, then Mr Conlon was liable to Mr Walsh on grounds he made representations negligently.

Mr Conlon, in his defence, had denied the claims.

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