Ex-directors reject claim of ‘self-delusion’

Four former directors of Pierse Contracting, once Ireland’s third-largest building contractor, are men of honesty and integrity who believed they were acting responsibly in allowing the firm to continue trading beyond 2009, the High Court has been told.

Ex-directors reject claim of ‘self-delusion’

Lawyers for the four have strongly rejected arguments by the company’s liquidator that their conduct amounted to “wilful self-delusion” justifying the making of restriction orders against them.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan heard final arguments yesterday before reserving judgment on the application by liquidator Simon Coyle for restriction orders, under Section 150 of the Companies Act, against former chief executive Charles Norbert ‘Nobbie’ O’Reilly, chairman Ged Pierse, worker director Michael McNamara and non-executive director Kieran Duggan.

Restriction orders were previously made against five other former directors — Fearghal Nolan, Martin Murphy, Michael O’Reilly, Matthew Duggan and Brendan Cahalin.

In correspondence with Mr Coyle, the five said they believed they acted honestly and responsibly at all times in the conduct of the company’s affairs but were not in a financial position to oppose the application.

Pierse, then employing 109 people, was wound up in November 2010 with a deficit of €212m and Mr Coyle claims the directors should have realised by April 2009 it was effectively insolvent.

In his application, Mr Coyle said he accepts the directors acted honestly and had invested €16m of their own funds in the company but claims that was “throwing good money after bad”.

His counsel Mark O’Mahony BL argued yesterday the directors’ optimism “became hubris; they proceeded without objectivity and lacked commercial acuity”.

In submissions for Kieran Duggan, James Doherty BL argued that, in alleging the directors were wilfully irresponsible in permitting the company continue trade after April 2009, Mr Coyle was being unfair, utterly unrealistic and acting with the benefit of hindsight.

Mr Coyle’s view that the firm’s accounts in 2009 were significantly overstated by tens of millions did not justify making restriction orders against his client, who with the other directors acted honestly and relied on professional advice when making financial projections, counsel said. The firm’s bankers and bondholders had supported its efforts to continue trading.

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