I know only two things about Nick Mulcahy. He is the editor of the Irish business magazine Business Plus and he knows very little about corporate fraud.
I gleaned these facts after reading an article in the Irish Independent by Mulcahy in which he analyses the latest developments in the DCC/Fyffes case.
According to Mulcahy, ODCE ‘pressed the nuclear button’ when they asked the High Court to appoint an inspector to investigate DCC/Fyffes over allegations of insider trading.
Pressing the nuclear button or taking the nuclear option means taking an action of last resort. In other words, only taking the most serious action after all other avenues have been exhausted.
So what action did so called Irish regulatory/enforcement authorities take in relation to the €83 million fraud perpetuated by Jim Flavin of DCC before being forced to press the nuclear button?
Initially, not a damn thing. When it became obvious that something very strange had occurred on the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) regarding DCC/Fyffes shares not a single Irish authority acted.
It was only when the London Stock Exchange, a regulatory agency operating from a functional jurisdiction, insisted that an investigation be carried out that the ISE finally took action.
The manner in which the ISE investigation was conducted has itself raised very serious questions regarding ethical and possibly illegal interactions between the ISE, DCC and the DPP. In the best traditions of ignoring suspected wrongdoing in Ireland, this aspect of the scandal has been practically ignored to date.
After the (suspect) ISE investigation was completed, again, nothing happened. The ISE, Irish police, Financial Regulator and the Government simply buried their collective heads in the sand.
It was only when Fyffes, fearing possible financial consequences if it failed to protect the interests of its shareholders, was forced to take a civil action against DCC that the case became active again.
It is entirely from this civil case and the publicity that it generated that the ODCE, possibly the weakest financial regulatory agency in the State, was embarrassed into taking action.
If the ODCE action is successful, and that is highly unlikely, and if it decides to punish DCC/Jim Flavin for any wrongdoing then that punishment will represent the absolute minimum action that the State can take in the case.
ODCE boss, Paul Appleby, knew that he hadn’t a hope in hell of a successful action if he was depending on his miniscule legislative power and resources. That’s why he scuttled over to the High Court and the Supreme Court when they were adjudicating on DCC/Fyffes, to make a pathetic plea to these courts to use their considerable powers to act against DCC/Flavin. His pleas were rejected out of hand.
As a last resort (and there’s certainly nothing nuclear about the effort) Appleby made a formal application to the High Court for the appointment of an inspector. The only advantage Appleby and ODCE will enjoy from this appointment is that their meagre resources will not be totally obliterated as they would have been if they were forced to take the action themselves.
So, what happens now? Well, the farce continues. The High Court inspector will take years to complete his investigation (The NIB investigation took six years).
ODCE then have the option of seeking to have those involved in the scandal disqualified from involvement in the management of a company (This is the absolute minimum punishment available to the State). This action will also take years (ODCE has only just completed action against those in the NIB scandal after years of legal wrangling).
By that time Jim Flavin and many others involved will have retired (and may even have died) and the whole matter will be seen as historical. It is an absolute certainty that those involved in the scandal will never be subject to a police investigation, will never be brought before a court to give an account of their actions, will never see the inside of a prison.
The Supreme Court found that Jim Flavin of DCC had engaged in insider trading involving sums of over €83 million. If the same finding was made in a functional democracy strong, immediate and effective action would have been taken by the police and all associated state enforcement/regulatory agencies.
If we are to judge by a recent and very similar insider trading case in the US, Flavin would now be serving a lengthy jail sentence, he would have been forced to repay his ill gotten gains; he would have had his substantial wealth seriously reduced by the imposition of hefty fines and forfeits.
Nick Mulcahy’s amateurish and naïve analysis of this case is an important factor in how white collar crime is dealt with in this country. Government and so called regulatory agencies will continue to ignore allegations of serious fraud until they are brought under strong pressure by well informed and persistent journalists.
Mulcahy’s silly ‘nuclear button’ conclusion is an indication of just how far away we are from that ideal situation.