Former Coillte chief executive entitled to €299k bonus, High Court rules

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said David Gunning, who was Coillte CEO for seven years, was entitled to the payments along with 2% interest and his legal costs. 

Mr Gunning, aged 54, of Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, who was CEO at Coillte from 2006 to 2013 on a salary of over €200,000 to start and over €300,000 later, had sued Coillte Teoranta seeking the payment of the monies.

The court decision was made after Mr Justice Kearns heard legal submissions on both sides after the opening of the case. The judge will give a written judgment at a later stage to outline the reasons for his decision.

David Gunning, counsel John Rogers told the High Court, along with the Coillte chairman had opened up new markets in the UK and the company made profits despite the downturn in the economy.

“He is entitled to his performance-related bonus payments. He turned a national company around.”

Mr Gunning had claimed under the performance scheme, he was entitled to be paid a bonus in two parts, an annual part based on his own performance and that of the company and also on a three-year basis relating to the three- year performance of both the CEO and company.

He claimed he was entitled to €53,435 in 2008 and in the two following years, he had claimed he waived his entitlement to an annual bonus. Mr Gunning said he was entitled to over 70,000 in 2011 and over €68,000 in 2012.

In respect of the three yearly payments, Mr Gunning had assessed he was entitled to over €31,000 in 2008, over €28,000 in 2009 and 2010; €24,964 in 2011, and over €26,000 in 2012. He said he did not waive his entitlement to any of these payments and Coillte did not pay them.

He also claimed he was entitled to an annual and a three-year bonus in respect of the part of 2013 that he worked for Coillte and he estimated these payments at over €18,000.

He further alleged that on June 23, 2009, the then minister for agriculture acknowledged in writing there was no legal basis for him as minister to request or insist that bonus payments be withheld. It was also alleged that the agriculture minister in 2011 repeated there was no legal basis for him as minister to demand that the bonus should not be paid.

Mr Gunning claimed that by letter on April 15, 2013, he was advised the Coillte board had decided not to make any payments to him. Mr Gunning claimed the failure to pay the money is in breach of contract.

In its defence, Coillte claimed Mr Gunning was entitled to the sums claimed by way of performance related pay up until April 8, 2013, but it claimed he was not entitled to it after that.

by Ann O’Loughlin

The former CEO of Coillte is entitled to performance-related bonus payments of €299,000, the president of the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said David Gunning, who was Coillte CEO for seven years, was entitled to the payments along with 2% interest and his legal costs.

Mr Gunning, aged 54, of Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, who was CEO at Coillte from 2006 to 2013 on a salary of over €200,000 to start and over €300,000 later, had sued Coillte Teoranta seeking the payment of the monies.

The court decision was made after Mr Justice Kearns heard legal submissions on both sides after the opening of the case. The judge will give a written judgment at a later stage to outline the reasons for his decision.

David Gunning, counsel John Rogers told the High Court, along with the Coillte chairman had opened up new markets in the UK and the company made profits

despite the downturn in the economy.

“He is entitled to his performance-related bonus payments. He turned a national company around.”

Mr Gunning had claimed under the performance scheme, he was entitled to be paid a bonus in two parts, an annual part based on his own performance and that of the company and also on a three-year basis relating to the three- year performance of both the CEO and company.

He claimed he was entitled to €53,435 in 2008 and in the two following years, he had claimed he waived his entitlement to an annual bonus. Mr Gunning said he was entitled to over 70,000 in 2011 and over €68,000 in 2012.

In respect of the three yearly payments, Mr Gunning had assessed he was entitled to over €31,000 in 2008, over €28,000 in 2009 and 2010; €24,964 in 2011, and over €26,000 in 2012. He said he did not waive his entitlement to any of these payments and Coillte did not pay them.

He also claimed he was entitled to an annual and a three-year bonus in respect of the part of 2013 that he worked for Coillte and he estimated these payments at over €18,000.

He further alleged that on June 23, 2009, the then minister for agriculture acknowledged in writing there was no legal basis for him as minister to request or insist that bonus payments be withheld. It was also alleged that the agriculture minister in 2011 repeated there was no legal basis for him as minister to demand that the bonus should not be paid.

Mr Gunning claimed that by letter on April 15, 2013, he was advised the Coillte board had decided not to make any payments to him. Mr Gunning claimed the failure to pay the money is in breach of contract.

In its defence, Coillte claimed Mr Gunning was entitled to the sums claimed by way of performance related pay up until April 8, 2013, but it claimed he was not entitled to it after that.


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