‘I didn’t mean to mislead the court’ – Henchy

The former chief executive of Dairygold has told the High Court that he did not mean to mislead the court when giving evidence.

Businessman Jerry Henchy (48) from Kilmallock, Co Limerick is suing his former employers for €8m in damages arising from his dismissal for “spurious reasons” to do with alleged financial irregularities with his farm account. He is also suing the co-operative for defamation over articles, which appeared in the national and international press subsequently. Dairygold contests all counts.

Henchy apologised to Mr Justice Daniel Herbert after an inconsistency arose under cross-examination with his earlier evidence. Henchy told counsel for Dairygold Paul Gardiner SC that he was not sure whether the board of Reox Holdings had voted on a proposed long-term incentive (LTI) scheme for the company’s executives. Gardiner then read from a transcript of Henchy’s earlier evidence in which he had said that the result of the vote on the subject had been a “fait accompli”.

The matter arose when Henchy was giving evidence on the setting up of a Reox executive LTI scheme before the company was spun out from Dairygold. In his earlier evidence, he told his counsel Mr Patrick Hanratty SC that Dairygold had full control of the Reox scheme. He said that the Dairygold board members serving as directors of Reox outnumbered those who only worked for Reox once Henchy and his fellow executive director were excluded from the vote. Under these circumstances the views of Dairygold would automatically be carried.

Henchy told the court today that he could not remember if a vote had actually taken place but stood by his original point.

“I did not mean to mislead the court,” he told Judge Herbert.

“Well you did and under oath too,” the judge replied.

Gardiner questioned whether any of his previous evidence could now be trusted.

“All of your evidence was given with a certainty of recollection. What are we to make of your evidence in chief?”

Henchy has said that Dairygold continued to be his employer even after he had transferred to Reox through a series of collateral contracts covering his ongoing work for the co-operative. He claims that Dairygold’s continued control over his Reox LTI scheme illustrates this arrangement.

Henchy agreed with Gardiner he had taken issue with the scheme. “I think I was always unhappy with the scheme because it was not normal for what was best practise in the industry.”

He agreed with Gardiner that minutes of meetings of the Remuneration Committee of Reox showed that the committee considered a review of the scheme in 2008, commissioning an independent company.

But he said that at a Reox board meeting Mr Flore Riordan, who was also on the Dairygold board, had said the scheme was not up for negotiation. Henchy told the court earlier that Riordan had said Reox could make changes to the scheme “over his dead body”.

Today, Henchy agreed that these words did not appear in the written memos of the Reox board meeting. He said that the minutes did show that Riordan had raised a serious objection saying that the shareholders would consider such a move a “breach of contract”.

Gardiner asked why he had suggested Riordan was the sole reason why the LTI review was shelved, when minutes of the remuneration committee for the company showed that a decision had already been taken to wait until after the sale of Breeo foods before discussing changes. The minutes show that the matter had been shelved for three to six months.

Henchy said that he had forgotten about the postponement but insisted that the matter had ended up being shelved indefinitely because of Riordan’s view.

Dairygold contests all allegations. The case continues tomorrow in the Four Courts in Dublin.

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