Starting a Business in Ireland-Your Legal Obligations and 2 Tips

So, you are thinking of starting a business? And you don’t know what are your legal obligations?

Let’s take a look.

Firstly, consider the legal structure of your business. Will you be a sole trader, partnership, or limited company?

Regardless of which structure you adopt you will need to register with the Revenue Commissioners for taxation purposes. If you set up a limited company, you will be paying corporation tax on your profits; if you do not incorporate a company you will be accounting to the Revenue Commissioners on a self-assessment basis.

You may also need to register for VAT, depending on your business and its turnover, and as an employer.

If you are simply setting up an online business there is no additional regulatory steps you need to take; obviously, you will need a website but you do not need any legal permission or registration for this.

However, if you want to get an Country Code TLD (top level domain) name you will need to apply to IEDR.ie which is the Irish IE domain name registry. This body helps to protect your domain name and provides a process by which domain name disputes can be resolved.

You may also avail of the services provided by Local Enterprise Offices who provide assistance, support, training, and other resources to entrepreneurs and start-ups. The Local Enterprise Office website is worth checking out, too.

From a legal/regulatory perspective you will note that setting up a business is a straightforward task with a minimal number of bureaucratic hoops through which to jump.

The most critical factor in your success will be obtaining clients or customers and providing such a good service or product that your business will grow through a mixture of new client acquisition and repeat business from satisfied customers and good word of mouth.

Once you get a bit of momentum you can look at the most effective ways of promoting your business and acquiring new business. This will almost certainly involve some element of digital marketing, including social media marketing.

Beware of spoofers

You will also need to have an inquiring, learning mind to growing your business and learning from those who have gone before you and made mistakes and successes. You can learn a huge amount from books of successful entrepreneurs, for example. Most of these people made costly mistakes from which you can learn without the need to repeat the mistake.

The power of books in this regard is enormous and if you do not like reading or if you don’t have the attention span to apply your mind to a book for at least one hour per day you are selling yourself short.

But you also run the risk of being misled and misinformed by people who I describe as spoofers; what I am referring to is people who have more knowledge about business or marketing than you do but who could not be genuinely described as expert in the sphere.

There is a qualitative difference between real experience acquired from building businesses over many years and somebody who is now positioning themselves as experts in some sphere of activity when there is no real substance to their claimed expertise, save for them knowing a bit more than you at this stage of your business development.

Don’t fall for it.

Some people have an innate level of cunning or street smarts or lack of naiveté; some people are inclined to naiveté and can be easily parted from their money with a bit of smooth-talking patter. Beware of this problem and if you are inclined to the second category take your time and do plenty of research first before acquiring the services of any supposed expert.

Work that matters

Do work that matters.

There is a qualitative difference between doing the work that matters, doing great work, acquiring clients, growing your business and things that don’t really matter but are inclined to stroke your ego-for example, shallow stuff like mentions, fans, likes, awards that may not amount to a hill of beans.

Don’t fall for this either.

Good luck!



The Quinn Children Consent to Judgments Totaling €440 Million

There was a large group of photographers outside the entrance to the Four Courts a few weeks ago as I walked out to the WRC in Ballsbridge for an employment hearing. As I walked past the building entrance the targets of their interest strolled down the street to enter the Round Hall and I guessed, correctly, who they were: “the Quinn children”.

When I say “the Quinn Children” I refer to the adult children of Ireland’s once wealthiest man, Seán Quinn.

Even if I never met them that morning on the quays by sheer coincidence I would have had an interest in their case.

Because their case was one in which they, the Plaintiffs in the action, were suing IBRC, formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank. Their claim was that €415 million guarantees they provided for loans to the Quinn Group in 2007 and 2008 were invalid and, therefore, unenforceable.

When I read that this was the basis of their claim-their cause of action-I was interested to see how they were going to win that argument. For it is an argument that has been made, for the last 10 years or so, by many small business owners, wives and girlfriends of small company directors, who argued that they could not be held to the guarantee they signed.

For all sorts of reasons-for example, signing a document in the kitchen of their home for their spouse who was a small business owner and discovering years later that this document was, in fact, a guarantee and the lender now wanted to be paid.

So, I kept an eye on the case as it was reported in the papers and on TV/radio.

It appeared to be the case that the Quinn children were claiming that they were put under undue influence by their father, Seán Quinn, into signing the guarantees. And what’s more, they claimed they were naïve, inexperienced, and unsophisticated and didn’t understand what they were doing or the significance of the papers they were signing.

This line of argument was, as you would expect, rejected by the bank’s lawyers who pointed out that these ‘children’ were experienced, well educated, professional adults and the notion that they did not understand what they were signing or what it meant was fanciful nonsense.

Significant ruling by Judge-game changer?

But the case took an unexpected turn last week leading to settlement talks which are ongoing. These talks commenced after the Judge, Justice Simons, made a significant ruling in the case.

This ruling hinged on the fact that the Quinn children sued the bank, IBRC, on the basis that the bank had unduly influenced them; but when it came to running the case and giving evidence the case put forward appeared to be that it was Sean Quinn who was the culprit in point of undue influence and overbearing their minds, not IBRC, the defendant.

And last week the children applied to Court to change their statements of claim to reflect this and wished to file supplementary written statements.

Justice Simons, however, refused to grant orders along these lines. He also stated that the argument that their pleadings in the case that Sean Quinn had unduly influenced them were “untenable”. He also said that they

“were unequivocal in stating that the entity against whom the allegation of undue influence was being made was Anglo…Not only is no claim of undue influence made against Sean Quinn Snr in the pleadings, the making of any such claim would, in any event, be entirely inconsistent with the manner in which the litigation has been conducted to date.”

Justice Simons also stated that if Sean Quinn was the ‘guilty’ party in respect of undue influence he should have been named as a defendant. When he asked counsel for the Quinn children why statements along their present course of argument were not included in their original witness statements counsel for the Quinn children admitted there was ‘’no good reason’’.

Significantly Justice Simons decided that if he allowed this change in approach by the Quinn children it would cause prejudice to the defendant, IBRC, as it would not now know what case it was expected to meet.

Moreover, IBRC had a counterclaim against the Quinn children and was entitled to bring that case along without further delays, especially having regard for the fact that this case commenced in 2011.

This ruling, I suspect, was a game changer and prompted the settlement talks.

What I find fascinating about this case, however, is why the claims of undue influence alleged against Sean Quinn were not included in the original statement of claim of the Quinn children.

If you never knew anything about the law, or how legal proceedings are conducted generally, you would probably be raising your eyebrows at a claim of wrongdoing against one party for 8 years and then, when the case is being heard and evidence is being adduced, somebody else is being fingered as the culprit.

You might also raise your eyebrows a little further, I believe, if you knew that all parties in the case had legal professionals who were at the top of their profession and as good as ready money could instruct.

As an outsider looking in I find it fascinating that the case took the turn it has taken as I was looking forward to seeing the final judgment in a high stakes, high profile case. If settlement talks are successful we will never know, although I had my own strongly held opinion which shall remain unventilated.

UPDATE 3rd April, 2019

I held off publishing this post for a couple of days as settlement negotiations were ongoing between the parties. The outcome of those talks were that the Quinn children consented to judgments totaling €440 million being entered against them. This is €88,157,351 against each of them.

They also accepted that IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish Bank) had valid and enforceable claims on the Quinn assets which were the subject of the securities.

 

The Members’ Voluntary Liquidation of a Company

A company can be dissolved by liquidation and there are three categories of liquidation:

  1. A voluntary liquidation by the members after the making of a statutory declaration of solvency
  2. A voluntary liquidation by the members which is ratified by the company creditors
  3. A court ordered liquidation

In a voluntary liquidation the appointed liquidator must file accounts with the Companies Registration Office and the company is then dissolved 3 months after that.

Every invoice, letter, email or order for goods thereafter should indicate that the company is in liquidation.

Members voluntary winding up

The two main requirements for a members voluntary winding up include:

  1. A statutory declaration of solvency
  2. A special resolution must be submitted to the CRO (Companies Registration Office)

The Declaration of Solvency is made on form E1 which involves the directors declaring that they have enquired into the affairs of the company and are of the opinion that the company will be able to pay its debts in full within a period of 12 months from the commencement of the winding up.

Within 1 month/30 days of making this declaration of solvency the members must pass a special resolution to wind up and appoint a liquidator (form G1).

The resolution to wind up must be advertised in Iris Oifigiúil within 14 days of passing the resolution.

Forms E1, G1, and a Notice of Appointment of Liquidator (Form E2) must be filed with the Companies Registration Office.

The statutory basis for the Declaration of Solvency is set out in section 207 of the Companies Act 2014.

Procedure for commencement of a members’ voluntary winding up

Section 579 of the Companies act 2014 sets out the procedure for the commencement of a members’ voluntary winding up in Summary Approval Procedure, which requires a special resolution of the directors.

Alternatively, an ordinary resolution of the directors will be sufficient if the procedure under section 580 of the Companies act 2014 is adopted in respect of companies of fixed duration or a company which is to dissolve on the happening of a fixed event:

a) on the expiry of the period, if any, that is fixed for the duration of a company by its constitution; or

(b) should such happen, when the event occurs on the occurrence of which a company’s constitution provides that the company is to be dissolved;

a members’ voluntary winding up of the company may, alternatively to the employment of the Summary Approval Procedure for that purpose, be commenced in accordance with section 580.

In summary, three forms must be filed with the CRO (Companies Registration Office): E1, E2, and G1 and an advertisement must be placed in the Iris Oifigiúil publication.

A form E3 may be required if the liquidation is not completed within 12 months; E3 is a form in which the Liquidator gives an account of his acts and dealings.

3 months after the date of registration of the final accounts (forms E6 and E5), the company is deemed to be dissolved.

Under section 708 of the Companies Act 2014 a company’s dissolution can be voided within 2 years and returned to liquidation. This procedure involves an application to the High Court.

Qualifications for appointment as liquidator

The qualifications for appointment as a liquidator are set out in section 633 Companies act 2014 and there are 5 categories of individual who qualify.

Eligible individuals include practicing solicitors, members of prescribed accountancy bodies, a person with practical experience of winding ups and knowledge of the law, members of a professional body recognised by the Supervisory Authority, and a person qualified under the laws of another EEA state.

The liquidator will need professional indemnity cover and certain persons are disqualified from acting as liquidator-for example, the company auditor, or an officer or employee of the company.

Section 583 of the Act provides that the company can appoint the liquidator at a general meeting. A general meeting can also remove or replace the liquidator.

Declaration of Solvency

The declaration of solvency form (E1) must be completed correctly and it is vitally important to check it carefully before submitting it to the CRO; if not directions from the High Court will be required.

It also must contain an Independent Person’s report in accordance with section 580(4) of the Companies act 2014  which confirms that the Declaration of Solvency is not unreasonable.

The Independent Person’s report must contain certain prescribed information such as the scope of the work performed by the statutory auditor and the opinion of the statutory auditor that the declaration of solvency is not unreasonable.

A Licence to Use Photographs

licence to use photographs
Licence to use photographs

Are you a photographer? Do you need a licence to use your photographs?

I can supply you with a licence agreement to use your photographs.

The licence contains the following sections:

  1. Background
  2. Parties
  3. Definitions
  4. Duration of the licence agreement
  5. The grant of the licence-for example, is it exclusive, non-exclusive, transferable, use etc.
  6. The licensee’s obligations
  7. The licensor’s obligations
  8. The moral rights
  9. Fees
  10. Royalties
  11. Limits on liability
  12. Warranties of licensor
  13. Indemnity of licensor
  14. Equitable relief
  15. Entire agreement clause
  16. Force majeure
  17. Termination
  18. General
  19. Dispute resolution
  20. Governing law and jurisdiction
  21. A schedule of the photographic works

Use the contact form to make an enquiry.

A Company Director or Shareholder Cannot Represent the Company in Court

company representation in court

Are you the director or shareholder of a company? Did you know you cannot represent your company in Court? You must instruct a solicitor to act for the company.

Let me explain.

I have often seen company directors and/or sole shareholders in the District Court seeking to represent the company. The company is a separate legal entity, however, from the shareholders, directors and members and it may face prosecution or be engaged in legal proceedings and disputes from time to time-for example failure to file tax returns or health and safety prosecutions.

If the company was a natural person it could do so as the director or any individual can represent himself in Court. Whether that is a good idea or not, however, is another kettle of fish.

Many times, the director of the company will go to the Court himself and purport to speak on behalf of the company. This is not permissible, however, as a company director or shareholder or member does not have a right of audience in Court in Ireland.

This rule was first established in a case in 1969, the “Battle” (Battle v Irish Art Promotion Centre Limited) case. This decision was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court decision delivered in October 2018 between AIB Bank and Aqua Fresh Fish Limited.

The Supreme Court stated,

The so-called rule in Battle v. Irish Art Promotion Centre Limited [1969] I.R. 252, when complemented by the inherent jurisdiction and discretion of the Court to permit, in exceptional circumstances, representation of a company by a person who is not a lawyer with a right of audience, continues to be the law in this jurisdiction and is consistent with the Constitution.

Put simply the general rule is that a company must be represented by a solicitor; Courts have the power, in exceptional circumstances, to allow a person who is not a lawyer to represent a company in court. But the general rule is that only 3 categories of person have a right of audience in Court:

  1. The parties in a case
  2. A solicitor instructed by a party in the case
  3. A barrister instructed by a solicitor for one of the parties in the case.

The Exceptions

The exceptional circumstances which may give rise to a Court permitting a company director to act for the company in Court are not clear and there are no guidelines you can follow or anticipate. Regard will be had by the Court to precisely what type of representation the non lawyer individual- director or otherwise-intends providing-for example, whether he/she intends acting in a ‘lawyer’ capacity before and at trial or merely acting on one occasion in Court or in a lesser capacity. Presumably the Court will also consider the complexity of the issues involved in the case and whether the administration of justice will be significantly hampered or delayed.

In addition to the exceptional circumstances referred to above there is a statutory exception pursuant to the Companies Act, 2014-that is, where a company is charged with an indictable offence it may appoint a representative to appear on its behalf in Court.

Moreover, a Court may listen to the views of a director in the interests of justice and to assist the Court; this is a different matter, however, to representing the company as a ‘lawyer’.

Conclusion

A company director or member or shareholder cannot represent their company in Court, the company must ‘lawyer up’, save for exceptional circumstances.