High Court approves final winding up of Quinn Insurance after cost to taxpayer of €1bn

The president of the High Court has approved moves for the final winding up of Quinn Insurance whose insolvency cost the taxpayer some €1 billion in payments from the Insurance Compensation Fund (ICF).

uinn Insurance Ltd was put into administration in 2010 and some 23 reports have been presented to the High Court over the years by joint administrators Michael McAteer and Paul McCann of Grant Thornton outlining progress on the orderly winding down of its business.

On Friday, Mr Justice David Barniville ordered that, following a resolution, the company be wound up and a formal petition for the wind up could be presented to the court as part of the normal liquidation process.

He also approved what was the 23rd and final report presented to the court by the joint administrators of the firm which included the setting out their costs and fees for the last year.

The judge thanked the joint administrators for the work they did on “a very difficult and complex administration”. He was thankful on his own behalf and that of his predecessors who had dealt with reports from the administrators over the last number of years.

The application to approve the winding up was made by Garvan Corkery SC, on behalf of the administrators, on an ex parte (one side only represented) basis.

Counsel said the application was in circumstances where effectively the administrators had taken on the role of the former Quinn directors and the court took on the role of the shareholders.

Counsel said there remained some outstanding matters relating to accounting and aspects of the insurance business which will still be dealt with by the administrators but it had been resolved to seek the winding up.

Counsel read from an affidavit from Mr McAteer outlining the course of the administration including the transfer of the various arms of the business – general and health insurance – to the Liberty and Catalina insurance companies.

He said proceedings brought against Quinn auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for allegedly negligent auditing of the firm were ultimately settled. PwC, which was sued for €900m, had denied the claim.

Quinn Insurance was founded by Cavan tycoon Seán Quinn, who was at one time Ireland’s richest man. The administrators had kept up its authorisation with the Central Bank but this is no longer required and will be withdrawn with the making of the winding up order, he said.

The cost of the administration will be of the order of €1 billion, the court heard.

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