Ryanair pilot denies email circulated by group inferred managers were selling shares

By Ann O'Loughlin

Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) interim council member, Ted Murphy, has denied in the High Court an email circulated by the group inferred the airline's managers were selling their shares in advance of a profit warning.

Captain Murphy, who is a former president of the Irish Airline Pilots Association, also denied the email sent to 2,289 pilots was defamatory and said it was not the RPG's intention to harm anyone.

He was on his second day of cross-examination in Ryanair's ongoing case against him and two other RPG council members, Evert Van Zwol and John Goss.

They deny defamation over the September 2013 email "pilot update: what the markets are saying about Ryanair".

Ryanair said it falsely inferred the company misled the market and knowingly facilitated insider dealing, among other things.

Put to him by Thomas Hogan SC for Ryanair that nobody else had been suggesting before the update that there was a sell-off of shares by managers during the summer ahead of a profit warning, Captain Murphy said that was not what the update was saying and not how he interpreted it.

He did not accept the update was false and misleading. He said the RPG members "never intended to do what you are accusing us of".

He accepted, as had his co-defendants, there was one error about a date in the update in relation to the share sale: late rather than mid-June, 2013.

It did not register with him or his co-defendants that this was incorrect until this case started. Had it been pointed out from the beginning by Ryanair, they would have made a correction in relation to the date, he said.

Counsel said it beggared belief that the date was not discussed before the case started. Captain Murphy said: "I am sorry it beggars belief but we did not".

He disagreed the email list of 2,289 pilots was a "hotchpotch list of contact emails and nothing more".

It was a list of Ryanair pilots and they checked it with the best accuracy they could, he said.

Evert Van Zwol and John Goss were recalled on Friday to be further cross-examined in relation to an email found during the course of the trial by RPG consultant Martin Duffy in which a reference was made to directors selling off shares in advance of bad market news.

Captain Van Zwol disagreed with Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, that this email showed the concept of managers selling off shares in advance of bad news had been discussed by the RPG group during pre-update communications.

He said if anyone had done so it would have raised his own internal warning because he had been careful to say in communications that there should be no link between share sales and bad market news.

Captain Goss rejected Mr Hayden's suggestion he did not care about having the right date in the update and all the RPG wanted to do was to say was management were selling shares ahead of bad news.

"That is completely untrue and I reject it completely".

Evidence in the case has ended.

Speeches and Mr Justice Bernard Barton's charge to the jury will take place next week.

KEYWORDS: Ryanair, Courts


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