Northern Ireland

PMS case to be heard in May 2013

An attempt to disqualify directors in the collapsed Presbyterian Mutual Society will not be heard for nearly a year, it has emerged.

Image caption The PMS entered administration in 2008

A case being brought against six men is to get underway at the High Court in Belfast in May 2013.

DETI is seeking to have them declared unfit to run a company over their alleged role in the PMS.

It has been claimed that orders are being sought against elderly directors because they are "soft targets".

Those defending the move include at least three men in their 70s with significant health problems. Two of them are retired clergymen.

Further details were also revealed today of the seriousness of the illness suffered by one of the respondents.

The court was previously told that David Henry Colin Ferguson's lawyers needed more time because he had been in intensive care.

It was confirmed to Mr Justice Deeny that he is now recovering but still has problems with stamina and concentrating for long periods.

Rescue

Mr Ferguson, as chief executive of the PMS, is alleged by DETI to have acted as a de facto director in approving loans and lending money, according to court papers.

Nearly 10,000 investors lost access to their savings when the society was forced into administration in November 2008 after a run on its funds.

A rescue package underwritten by the government and the Northern Ireland Executive was agreed last year.

But DETI has made a series of allegations of unfitness against some of the directors.

These include that they caused or allowed the PMS to carry on the business of banking contrary to relevant legislation and to accept deposits in breach of the Banking Act 1987.

Breach

It is also claimed that they failed to adequately monitor or control the affairs of the society, and allowed it to make loans of more than £56m to non-members in breach of its rules.

The five other respondents in the case are: Philip Black, David James Clements, David McConaghy, Albert McCormick and Samuel McFarland.

Earlier in the case a judge noted that DETI decided it was not in the public interest to seek disqualification orders against 15 others who were directors when the PMS went into administration.

All six respondents deny unfit conduct and have filed counter claims that the Department has discriminated against them, and acted with appartent bias and unfairness.

They also argue that the alleged grounds for unfitness could apply to all of the directors.

With other Chancery Division cases already scheduled for hearing in the intervening months, Mr Justice Deeny listed the two week case to begin on 13 May.