Kevin O'Higgins Solicitors

Mediation is best way to deal with company law disputes - judge

Wednesday, 7 May, 2014
The Irish Independent
by Dearbhail McDonald

MEDIATION is the only way forward for "messy and expensive" company law disputes according to the senior judge who manages corporate divorces. High Court judge Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said that company law disputes, often between longstanding friends and siblings, as well as husbands and wives, are highly expensive and time consuming, with many lasting for years.

"Mediation has application across the board, and I think most judges would welcome a mediation act" said Judge Laffoy.

Judge Laffoy, the senior judge in the High Court assigned to cover the companies acts list - which includes liquidations and insolvencies - was speaking at a conference on the Companies Bill 2012.

The bill is the largest planned law in the history of the State with more than 1,4000 individual sections.

Due to be enacted in 2014, the bill passed second stage last month in the Oireachtas.

Under the planned law, hundreds of corporate criminal offences will be streamlined into four different categories and the courts will, for the first time, be able to compel directors and others to pay damages in certain company or shareholder disputes.

A "serious" or category one breach of company law will attract a fine, if convicted following a jury trial, of up to €500,000 or a prison sentence of up to ten years.

The law includes an express power to seize the personal assets of company directors of they fail to comply with enforcement orders and court judgments.

Directors will also face the prospect of jail for any "wilful" disobedience of court orders.