The application made to the High Court to recover the costs of the Ansbacher investigation carried out by the High Court-appointed inspectors was made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who had defrayed the costs of the investigation. The application made was for the sum of €3,453,577.93, being the total costs of the investigation met by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, at the time the application was made. The application was for the total amount against all parties.
The actual amount settled for was €1.25 million. As part of the settlement all parties agreed to pay their own legal costs, that is, the cost of dealing with the above-mentioned application of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
The decision to settle the application for a lesser sum was taken collectively by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I, in consultation with the Attorney General, and having considered all of the legal advice available to us. The decision was a difficult one and was not taken lightly.
The decision to settle the case was taken on the grounds that there was no guarantee the State would achieve a more favourable outcome if we decided to pursue the case to the bitter end.
In a previous High Court case, Siucre Éireann v. the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the High Court had ruled that only the company which was the subject of the investigation could be required to make a contribution towards the costs of the investigation. Our legal advice was that this precedent would almost certainly be followed by the High Court in the Ansbacher case. This would have meant pursuing the matter in the Supreme Court if we wished to have parties other than Ansbacher bear some of the costs. We were advised that the prospects of successfully doing so were finely balanced. If the Supreme Court ruled against the State, the State would have been faced with fairly massive costs in favour of those companies which were not the main subject of the investigation but which featured in the inspectors' report.
We were also advised that there was a significant risk that the High Court might not direct Ansbacher to pay all, or any significant portion, of the costs of the investigation because Ansbacher and its present owners had co-operated with the investigation and because of the inspectors' acknowledgement that almost all of the wrongdoing uncovered in their report took place prior to the acquisition of Ansbacher by its present owners and that the present owners took steps to bring the irregularities to an end when they became aware of them.