Banks to pool data to ascertain solicitor’s liabilities

TEN banks and other financial institutions which had dealings with solicitor Michael Lynn in relation to an unknown number of properties are to pool information to try and establish the extent of the solicitor’s liabilities, estimated at up to €50 million, the High Court heard yesterday.

A total of 105 properties could be involved, with about 30 to 40 of them overseas.

Proceedings by First Active plc and Allied Irish Banks plc against Mr Lynn are to come before the Commercial Court today.

It also emerged yesterday that Irish Nationwide has initiated a separate action against another solicitor, Thomas A Byrne, practising as Thomas Byrne & Co, Walkinstown Road, Dublin.

Mr Byrne is being investigated by the Law Society and IIB Bank plc this week secured court orders restraining him reducing his assets below €9m. It is believed Irish Nationwide is seeking more than €10m in its proceedings against Mr Byrne.

When proceedings concerning Mr Lynn came before the court yesterday, the Law Society said it needed more time to complete its investigation into the practice.

Shane Murphy, for the Society, said the investigation was ongoing and indicated a risk that different financial institutions may have claims over the same properties.

The Society was seeking a two-week adjournment which would preserve the status quo relating to the various banks, he said.

The banks are concerned about who will have priority for payment in relation to situations where multiple mortgages have been taken out on the same properties.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Richard Johnson, agreed to adjourn the proceedings to November 8 to facilitate information exchange.

Mr Justice Johnson said the information should outline the names of any other solicitors authorised, or who purported to be authorised, by Mr Lynn’s practice to give undertakings. He added that the information about the various properties should be available to the banks “at the press of a button”.

Paul Burns, for Mr Lynn, said his client had no difficulty with most of what was proposed by the court but, in relation to preparing affidavits, the Law Society had all his client’s documents. The judge told Mr Burns his client should swear what he can in an affidavit, saying he could still give information.

Ten financial institutions — Bank of Ireland and its subsidiaries; Allied Irish Bank; Ulster Bank; ACC Bank; National Irish Bank; IIB Homeloans; Bank of Scotland (Ireland); Irish Nationwide; First Active and Permanent TSB — were all represented in court. Ulster Bank indicated it had an interest in 18 properties in connection with which it had dealings with Mr Lynn.

Counsel also appeared for an individual who had dealt with Mr Lynn in connection with a property purchased in August 2006. Counsel said Mr Lynn had given undertakings to his client’s solicitor but his side had been unable to register title.

Mr Lynn’s wife, Brid Murphy, was separately represented. Her counsel said she had an interest in two properties, the family home at St Alban’s Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4, and another property at Thomond Road. Both properties were in the joint names of the couple, counsel said.

AIG Insurance, Mr Lynn’s insurers, also attended the proceedings. An earlier hearing was told Mr Lynn has total insurance cover for € 11m. It is feared his liabilities will greatly exceed that figure and they have been estimated at amounts between €26m and €50m.

Martin Ferris, a receiver appointed by two banks over companies associated with Mr Lynn, was also represented in court.

John Gleeson, for IIB Homeloans, said there clearly was an “information deficit”, not only for IIB but all the other financial institutions, in relation to Mr Lynn’s dealings. He was proposing each institution would draw up a list of properties relating to which they had loaned money to Mr Lynn and give a copy of that list to the other institutions and to the Law Society.

Mr Lynn should also on affidavit confirm the location of the title deeds regarding the properties, counsel said. That information was “crucial” as the banks have agreements that title deeds come back to them. It seemed Mr Lynn had given undertakings to more than one bank but they did not know the extent of that. Mr Lynn had a duty to tell the court what was happening.

Mr Gleeson said information should be exchanged within six or seven days. Mr Murphy said the IIB proposal was constructive but the timescale was perhaps unrealistic. Mr Burns indicated Mr Lynn would cooperate but also thought the timescale unrealistic.

The judge said information should be exchanged as soon as possible. He adjourned the proceedings to November 8 and the degree of cooperation, or absence of same, from Mr Lynn, would be noted.

The case by the Law Society against Mr Lynn was before Mr Justice Johnson for the third time. Mr Lynn, practising as Capel Law, is alleged to have taken out multiple mortgages on the same properties with several Irish banks. His practice has been closed by the Law Society, his accounts have been frozen and he has been ordered to disclose a full list of his accounts and assets.

The account-freezing orders cover accounts in the name of Mr Lynn and various companies associated with him: Capel Law; Overseas Property Law; Kendar Holdings Ltd and Proper T Capel Ltd.

The Law Society’s Regulation of Practice Committee expressed the view last week that a report of an investigation by an authorised officer with the Society into Mr Lynn’s practice “disclosed acts of dishonesty” by Mr Lynn in relation to client monies. Solicitors Account regulations prohibit payments out of client accounts for the purpose of a solicitor’s personal transactions.

Mr Burns told Mr Justice Johnson last week he “can’t say” how many properties are involved.

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