29 May 2022

Dispute over decision to terminate agreement to operate Longford branch of EBS resolved

Dispute over decision to terminate agreement to operate Longford branch of EBS resolved

Dispute over decision to terminate agreement to operate Longford branch of EBS resolved

A legal action arising out of EBS's decision to terminate an agency agreement with a financial services company to operate three of the building society's branches, including one in Longford, has been resolved. 

The action was brought by Betty Martin Financial Services (BMFS) Ltd, over EBS's decision to terminate an agency agreement between the parties to operate EBS branches in Athlone, Longford and Lucan.

The dispute arose after BMFS alleged that in 2017 EBS decided to unlawfully end an agreement, which it has operated for many years, over its refusal to engage in the mis selling of financial products to customers.

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EBS had strongly denied that allegation, and argued that it was fully entitled to terminate the agreement.

BMFS had successfully secured an injunction from the High Court in 2019 preventing EBS DAC from terminating their agreement  known as a Tied agreement, to operate the three branches.

Another financial services entity was due to take over the operation of the EBS branches, it was also alleged. 

That injunction, which was to remain in place pending the final outcome of the dispute, was upheld following an appeal to the Court of Appeal. 

The matter was listed for hearing before the Commercial Court, the big business division of the High Court.

On Tuesday Keith Farry Bl for BMFS told the court that arising out of talks between the parties the dispute had been resolved.

It was agreed that the action could be struck out and the injunction could be vacated, counsel said.

No other details of the settlement were given in open court.

The settlement was welcomed by Mr Justice Denis McDonald.

The hearing of the dispute, had it proceeded, was expected to last for several weeks.

Previously the High Court heard that BMFS was founded by Co Roscommon native Betty Martin, who died in 2014 aged 58 years.

When seeking the injunction BMFS, represented by Declan McGrath SC and Keith Farry Bl, claimed that the purported termination was invalid, was done for no good reason,  and would have resulted in the collapse of BMFS's business.

The company, which is now run by Mrs Martin's children Declan and Shelia, claimed that from 2010 onwards they refused to comply with directions to mis-sell products to customers that were unprofessional, unethical and against Central Bank Rules and guidelines. This refusal resulted in EBS's decision to terminate the agency agreement, they claimed.

EBS, represented by Paul Gardiner SC and Kieran Lewis SC denied the allegations.

When opposing the injunction application it claimed BMFS complaints of alleged mis-selling were only made by BMFS after EBS decided in 2017 to terminate the agreement with the firm. 

EBS also claimed the allegations were investigated and no evidence was found to support the claims.

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