BUSINESSMAN BILL CULLEN has brought a High Court case against Ulster Bank Ireland and receivers Kavanagh Fennell for €120 million over the shutdown of his former business.
Cullen’s business Glencullen Group, which was behind the Bill Cullen Motor Group Renault dealerships, consisted of 30 companies and employed 200 people.
In 2012, Ulster Bank appointed accountancy firm Kavanagh Fennell as receivers over the company’s assets. The suit was filed in the High Court on Tuesday 19 February.
The plenary summons outlines that, among other things, Cullen is seeking damages, compensation, an order prohibiting the defendants and their agents from entering into any contract for the sale of properties held by them and costs.
Cullen’s High Court action makes claims similar allegations to those his partner Jackie Lavin made before an Oireachtas finance committee in January last year over the bank’s handling of business customers who were put into the bank’s restructuring unit, Global Restructuring Group Ireland (GRG).
In his suit, Cullen is accusing Ulster Bank and the now-defunct GRG of deliberately targeting and shutting down his sustainable business as part of the strategy adopted by Ulster Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)’s GRG.
In 2016, Ulster Bank’s parent RBS announced a multimillion-euro compensation scheme for SME customers in Ireland and the UK who were treated unfairly by GRG.
Last year, Lavin told the committee the setup resulted in a “deliberate bringing down of businesses in a property grab strategy”. This included the business Glencullen Holdings, which she shared with Cullen.
The Ulster Bank GRG Irish Business Action Group was set up by Lavin to represent 60 Irish companies that were put into GRG.
‘No similar instances’ in Ireland
On Tuesday, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK released a report which highlighted RBS’s poor treatment of struggling small businesses that requested financial support during and after the financial crisis from 2008 onwards.
The document details that there was, in certain respects, “widespread inappropriate treatment” of small businesses by the bank’s GRG.
However, speaking before the Oireachtas committee, Ulster Bank’s chief financial officer, Paul Stanley, said some of the correspondence in the report is “shocking”, but he had “not seen similar instances” in the Republic of Ireland.
Lavin told the committee that Glencullen had been a customer of Ulster Bank since 1990, however it had cash-flow problems in 2009. It was put into GRG in 2011 and in October 2012 receivers were appointed to take control of the business.
“Eleven months after GRG took over, the receiver was called in. They took everything, including all our documentation and back-up receiver, leaving us nothing to fight with them,” Lavin told the committee.
“In the intervening four years, they have totally refused to give us any documentation on our loans, or payment schedule, or bank accounts in spite of numerous requests.
“This systematic abuse of customers in mirrored across all other businesses we spoke to all across the company.”
Lavin claimed the measures were part of “a deliberate process” from Ulster Bank GRG to “improve its own position at the cost of Irish customers, companies, jobs and lives”.
Written by Hayley Halpin and posted on TheJournal.ie