Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PIRRWITZ v AI and PI - the most expensive Jersey show for years...

Pirrwitz v AI and PI in the Jersey Court

If you need the services of a Jersey lawyer to give advice on some simple legal dispute, the chances are that you will not bother to ask. At least, not unless you meet a friendly lawyer in the pub and manage to extract some “pro bono” words of wisdom over an orange juice.

In other circumstances, as we know too well it’s not just the oranges that get squeezed by or for our particularly avaricious legal eagles’ pleasure or reward. Even the simplest legal consultation costs many hundreds of pounds and the experience is usually unpleasant.

So when I dropped into the “Old Library” Royal Court recently to see what the case of Pirrwitz v AI and PI was all about I was amazed to observe that there were eight or ten of the super expensive vultures busily pecking away at some obscure financial skeletons.

Besides which there was the Deputy Bailiff with two Jurats, all dressed up in their finest red robes, as well as the court Greffier and ushers. There were also a couple of anonymous men in suits – who might have been more lawyers – sitting at one of the tables and there was also the well dressed witness, under cross-examination. He claimed professional qualifications and expertise (but not in law) and spoke with a “foreign” accent and mostly about euros. Although he did mention a board meeting over dinner at the Longueville Manor in Jersey and others in Vienna, Turkey and Bratislava…

All in all, this was a very expensive show to put on just for my benefit as the only member of the general public present and this apparently went on for the whole week, morning and afternoon. When the court adjourned at 5 pm on Friday and one counsel enquired “when it might end?” (feeling fees fatigue perhaps?) we learned that yet more expert witnesses were being flown in from Italy on Monday, that the current witness might as well stay for the weekend because he too would be required again  - and the case would go on at least until Wednesday…

So plenty more lovely fees to be paid yet by somebody and no doubt there would be much wining and dining at chic places in anticipation of a good result for one party or another in the fullness of time…and the “court costs” must be horrendous too. So this must be the benefit for Jersey?

So far as I am aware, there was no press presence – I presume that this is just an everyday case of no particular importance in the world of Jersey finance.
So not of local interest then?

However, this case that has mysteriously come to roost in this odd little jurisdiction (although the matters complained have little of nothing to do with the Island or its residents) has been reported-on quite extensively overseas.

The following extract is typical and serves to outline what has been going on with the management of these “publicly quoted” AI and PI companies, out of sight and out of mind of any Jersey regulation or concern although JFSC is supposed to have looked at some dubious dealings here in the past.

Jersey Advocates Collas Crill describe their involvement on their own website as a complex landmark “Dispute resolution” case with Advocates Nuno Costa and Danny Le Maistre leading their team in cooperation with Latham & Watkins of London and Wolf Theis of Vienna on behalf of Meini Bank AG (Austria) etc.

Unfortunately the sound systems in Jersey courts must be designed to prevent the public hearing what is going on but there is a cast of many millions (in fees) who have been milking these “two Jersey investment funds” for years - although they are due to be wound up (and presumably buried) this October (according to unflattering reports in the Telegraph and other well known scandal sheets).

Crill Canavan and Carey Olsen seem to have been the principal Jersey firms with a managing interest in the funds.
During the “hearing” one witness suggested that the annual management fees were as much as 10 millions euros for each fund so if this sort of money came the way of Jersey lawyers- well it indicates the scale of the case.

Local boy Richard Boleat’s involvements were also frequently referred to – and his finance profile is visible on the NET…

Bjorn Pirrwitz who was a non executive director for just a few months but collected huge fees is suing for the non-payment of 1.3 million euros which he claims is due to him as an “Ogley” payment or “exit fee” regardless of whether he fell or was pushed…

This is the wonderful world of finance with its smelly and sordid entrails exposed to public gaze – but it is just not being reported in Jersey.

Today (Wednesday) is the final scheduled day in the Jersey “Old Library” Court – so catch it if you can.

The report from FORMAT trend “the portal for business and money” that follows has been translated from a German original on-line, but the meaning is clear enough.

AI and PI as a self-service store: Board members collect exorbitant salaries

  • Björn Pirrwitz klagt PI und AI auf 1,3 Millionen Euro Björn Pirrwitz complains PI and AI to 1.3 million Euros
  • Vilsmeiers Monatslohn beläuft sich auf 30.000 Euro Vilsmeiers monthly wage amounts to 30,000 euros
Die Klage eines früheren Boardmitglieds der Meinl-Nachfolgegesellschaften zeichnet ein unschönes Sittenbild. The action brought by a former board member of Meinl's successor companies paints an ugly portrait of manners. Die Rebellen gönnten sich absurde Gehälter. The rebels gave themselves ridiculous salaries.
Sie sind mit dem Anspruch angetreten, für mehr Transparenz zu sorgen und die Abzocke durch die Meinl Bank zu beenden: die sogenannten Rebellen, die bei Meinl Airports International im Juli des Vorjahres und bei Meinl International Power im darauf folgenden Herbst die Macht übernommen haben. They are with the claim set out to provide more transparency and end the rip-off by Meinl Bank: the so-called rebels, who have taken over from Meinl Airports International in July of last year and at Meinl International Power in the following autumn the power. Heute sieht das eher nach Lippenbekenntnissen aus. Today, it looks more like lip service. Denn auch die neuen Herren dürften die beiden Firmen, die heute Airports International (AI) und Power International (PI) heißen, als Selbstbedienungsladen betrachten. Even the new masters should consider the two companies, which are now called Airports International (AI) and Power International (PI), as a self-service store.

Klage eingebracht Action introduced
Aus einer Klage des ehemaligen Boardmitglieds Björn Pirrwitz (im Bild links) , die FORMAT exklusiv vorliegt, lässt sich dies jedenfalls ableiten. From a lawsuit by former board member Björn Pirrwitz (pictured left), which is present exclusively FORMAT, this can in any case be derived. Pirrwitz, der im April dieses Jahres aus den Gesellschaften – nicht ganz freiwillig – ausschied, fordert von PI 700.000 Euro und von AI 600.000 Euro „Exit Payment“. Pirrwitz that in April this year from the companies - not entirely voluntary - retired calls from PI 700,000 euros and 600,000 euros from AI "exit payment". In der Klage beruft sich Pirrwitz auf ein Agreement mit dem ebenfalls letzte Woche ausgeschiedenen Chairman Wolfgang Vilsmeier. The lawsuit cites Pirrwitz an agreement last week with the also retiring Chairman Wolfgang Vilsmeier. Dieses legt die Summen fest, die bei Abwahl oder Ausscheiden eines Boardmitglieds ausgezahlt werden. This sets out the amounts that are paid for deselection or resignation of a Board member. Im Falle von Pirrwitz also insgesamt saftige 1,3 Millionen Euro. In the event of a total Pirrwitz hefty 1.3 million euros. Und das für gerade einmal neun Monate Tätigkeit in den Gesellschaften. And for a mere nine months of activity in the companies. Damit aber nicht genug: In zwei weiteren Klagen fordert Pirrwitz beim Gericht in Jersey Überstundennachzahlungen für März 2009, seinen letzten Arbeitsmonat. But that's not all: In two other lawsuits Pirrwitz asks the Court in Jersey overtime payments for March 2009, his last month of work. Der AI verrechnet er insgesamt 106 Überstunden, davon 30 am Wochenende. The AI ​​he netted a total of 106 overtime hours, including 30 on the weekend. Macht 30.250 Euro. Makes 30,250 euros. Bei der PI begnügt er sich mit 89 Überstunden, davon 32 am Wochenende. When he is satisfied with 89 PI overtime, including 32 on the weekend. Saldo: 26.000 Euro. Balance: € 26,000.

Fürstliche Entlohnung Princely reward
Die Anzahl der Überstunden resultiert aus einem Anfang März 2009 neu festgelegten Vergütungsschema für beide Firmen. The number of overtime resulted from a early March 2009 redefined compensation scheme for both companies. Dieses sieht für jedes Boardmitglied eine monatliche Vergütung von 12.500 Euro vor – pro Gesellschaft, versteht sich. This provides for each Board member a monthly salary of 12,500 euros - per company, of course. Ergibt also ein Fixum von 25.000. Therefore results in a fixed amount of 25,000. Chairman Vilsmeier kassierte noch etwas mehr, nämlich insgesamt 30.000 Euro pro Monat. Chairman Vilsmeier conceded something more, namely a total of 30,000 euros per month. Für diesen Betrag mussten die Rebellen allerdings nur fünf Tage pro Monat arbeiten. For this amount, the rebels had to work only five days a month. Für jeden Wochentag darüber hinaus kassierten die Herren zusätzliche 2.000 Euro, für jeden Tag am Wochenende 3.000 Euro. For each day beyond conceding Messrs. additional 2,000 euros for each day on the weekend 3,000 euros. Wobei in diesem Schema ein Tag nur mit genau acht Stunden berechnet wird. And in this scheme, a day will be charged only with exactly eight hours. Allein im März 2009 hätte Pirrwitz also mehr als 81.000 Euro für 243 Arbeitsstunden verdient: ein Stundenlohn von 330 Euro, der so manchen Vorstand österreichischer Großkonzerne alt aussehen lässt. Only in March 2009 Pirrwitz would thus earn more than 81,000 euros for 243 hours of work as an hourly wage of 330 euros, which can look like some old Board of Austrian corporations. Auf 243 Arbeitsstunden kommt ein fleißigerer Abteilungsleiter in einem normalen Unternehmen auch, aber nur auf ein Zehntel dieser Gage. To 243 working hours fleißigerer Head comes in a normal business, but only a tenth of this fee. Geht man davon aus, dass die anderen Boardmitglieder ähnliche Arbeitsleistungen wie ihr Kollege Pirrwitz erbringen (bzw. erbrachten), ergibt das Jahresgehälter in der Größenordnung von rund einer Million für die Manager von AI und PI. Assuming that the other board members to provide similar kinds of labor as their colleague Pirrwitz (or services), the annual salary is in the range of about one million for the managers of AI and PI. Aber die Aktionäre können sich trösten: Im Oktober hat das Schauspiel ein Ende, die Gesellschaften werden dann aufgelöst. But the shareholders can console themselves: In October, the drama is over, the company will then be dissolved.

Von Andreas Lampl und Angelika Kramer By Andreas Lampl and Angelika Kramer

Im Bild (vl): Björn Pirrwitz, Hans-Peter Dohr und Wolfgang Vilsmeier In the photo (from left): Björn Pirrwitz, Hans-Peter Dohr and Wolfgang Vilsmeier


    Retained by Public Demand for another Day!
    Yes folks the Royal Court talking continues tomorrow - Thursday - so all is not yet lost. But this will almost certainly be your last chance to see this show in Jersey.
    The family death threats alleged by one key witness are to be heard elsewhere so they said today.

    The German to English translation seems to have become a bit fragmented here. Those who speak German will no doubt understand it, otherwise google it on the internet...

  2. They say money talks,over here it never stops, will SHOUT and, if need be stick the boot in.


  3. You don't half put a lot of rubbish on your blog, Tom.

  4. It is difficult to comprehend just what legitimate purpose there might have been in having these Austrian Publicly listed businesses registered in Jersey.
    Of course, they paid no Jersy income tax on their millions of euros investments and many of their business ventures appear to have ended in failure.
    Having George Baird, the former States Treasurer as a director on the board along with the influential Richard Boleat may have given some credibility to these businesses but it would useful if these individuals would emerge from the shadows to explain their roles.
    Of course they have no public obligation so to do so far as the public of Jersey are concerned (whether they have with regard to the shareholders is a matter for others to consider) but the constant chipping away at Jersey's reputation on all sorts of issues must be addressed at some time. And I don't mean addressed by yet more silence and cover-ups.

    That the "Times" newspaper has been exposing yet another UK tax-avoidance scheme using Jersey professionals and offices this week ought to provoke some of the finance whizz-kids to take stock of their positions, at the very least.

    It may or may not be significant but when the Chairman of the AI and PI companies revealed his possible use of "insider" information in his decision making (re not selling shares in another publicly quoted company) - the Jersey court agreed to disregard the information.

    Of course, this information was not directly relevant to the case in hand but such a serious potential offence should surely be taken up by somebody? If not Messrs Baird or Boleat or the Jersey law firms acting in this matter - how about the JFSC?

    Since the companies are now in the process of being wound up surely somebody has a responsibility to investigate the strange goings-on and to track what has happened to some very large investments funds?
    Since one of the comapnies was involved in building airports and the other in eco-friendly ventures such as wind-farms, then there ought to be some local curiosity in these failures.
    Of course, no puffins are known to have suffered directly in these collapses...

    The hearing in the Jersey court has now ended and the judgement of the Deputy Bailiff is awaited.