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Chief Justice looks for ethics in the boardroom

Chief Justice Susan Denham said today that a “trail of devastation winds its way into our courts daily”.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Updated 20:23

COMPANY DIRECTORS NEED to concentrate on ethics in the board room and the governance of companies, rather than keeping a constant eye on the needs of shareholders, according to Ireland’s Chief Justice in a report published earlier today.

Launching the Courts Service Annual Report, Susan Denham warned businesses that they have a critical role to play in the restoration of Ireland’s economy and that begins with ‘doing the right thing’.

She said it was noticeable that there had been a 50 per cent increase in orders to restrict company directors in 2012, as well as a 350 per cent hike in the number of company directors disqualified.

Knowing what is the right thing to do in a situation and then doing it, comes from exercising self-awareness, personal integrity and often no small amount of courage.

“Personal codes of honour which embody respect and transparency are not nineteenth century antiquated values.  They are displayed by people in all walks of life today,” she continued, urging the business community to fulfil its role in leading the nation out of the current fiscal crisis.

Boards of Directors hold a privileged position of trust, and are relied upon, primarily by the company and shareholders, but also employees, customers, suppliers and the public at large. We rely on boards of directors to do the right thing.

“A trail of devastation winds its way into our courts daily. Ireland’s Judiciary hear at first hand the consequences of the ‘Boom and Bust’ each day in court. The financial crisis has uncovered malpractices, and it is important now that we put a greater emphasis on business ethics.

“Ethics, like justice, should withstand external influences,” she concluded.

Key figures

The annual report for 2012 showed a reduction in personal and other debt cases, with a 30 per cent fall in judgements sought. There was also:

  • A 20 per cent decline in orders of possession;
  • A 52 per cent decrease in possession cases issued over two years;
  • A 14 per cent increase in eviction proceedings in the District Court (largely for non-payment of rent);
  • A 40 per cent fall in judgements for monies owed in the District Court;
  • A 82 per cent jump in committal orders for non-payment of debt despite court hearings and orders.

Back on the business side, company related debt matters which led to winding up petitions before the courts or cases before the Commercial Court decreased 13 per cent.

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Decisions appealed from the Employment Appeals Tribunal or applications for enforcement of decisions in the Circuit Court increased by 40 per cent.

Chief Justice  Denham praised the courts service for running a “leaner” operation during 2012 as it delivered at a cost base 5.6 per cent less than in 2010. Since 2008, the cost of running the courts has been reduced by 41 per cent. In that time, wages have decreased by 15 per cent, admin costs by 38 per cent and capital funding by 80 per cent.

First published 13:15.

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