An application by the State’s corporate watchdog for documents from Leslie Buckley, the chairman of Independent News & Media (INM) , has been adjourned at the High Court to next month.
The documents are being sought as part of an investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) of a whistleblower complaint.
There are 11 documents at issue and, if they are what Mr Buckley says they are, the ODCE is likely to accept they are privileged but more details should be provided, Brian Murray SC for the ODCE, said.
Most of the documents appeared to concern communications involving Mr Buckley and Derek Mizak, who it was stated in affidavits could provide technical assistance in relation to aspects of Mr Buckley’s sworn statement.
There was also a reference to information technology services of another man, John Henry of Specialist Security Services.
Some of the documents were prepared in advance of a statement that INM was issuing, the court heard.
One of the 11 documents at issue is a communication from lawyer to client which, unless a waiver was provided, would normally be privileged, Mr Murray said.
The other documents were communications to Mr Mizak and it was said in affidavits from Mr Buckley those arose because Mr Mizak’s assistance was being sought with technical questions arising from the ODCE demand.
If that is the purpose of documents, they are properly subject of a claim for privilege, counsel said.
While the ODCE is neutral, he suggested the court look at them to satisfy itself of that, counsel told the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly.
His side wanted Mr Buckley to specify exactly what form of legal advice or litigation privilege is being claimed, Mr Murray added.
Sean Guerin SC, for Mr Buckley, said his side hoped to address the issues raised by Mr Murray with a view to the matter not troubling the court significantly when it returns to court on January 22.
All 11 documents arose in the context of assistance being sought from Mr Buckley and him reviewing some 40,000 documents and producing 275 documents.
The judge made directions for exchange of documents between the sides and adjourned the matter to January 22. He said he would review the material then if necessary.
INM previously said it is not a party to the case involving Mr Buckley, and said it has “co-operated fully in supplying the ODCE with all the information it has requested”.
The ODCE’s involvement followed a row last year between Mr Buckley and Robert Pitt, INM’s former chief executive, who made the whistleblower complaint against him over an aborted bid for Newstalk.
Mr Pitt’s complaint to the ODCE also prompted INM to launch an independent review last December.
Mr Buckley represents INM’s main shareholder, Denis O’Brien, who also owns Newstalk, the valuation of which sparked the original dispute between Mr Pitt and Mr Buckley.
Since the ODCE began investigating the INM-Newstalk aborted deal, its inquiry has widened to also take in the handling of a “potential personal data breach” at the company.