Monday, 29 March 2010

Looney v Trafigura: Part 2 – Case Details

In Part 1 I described my interest in this case and here I give details of the case itself. 

On 8 January I posted as follows:

‘The Times, Telegraph and Guardian all reported that Trafigura and their lawyers, Carter-Ruck, were going to the High Court this afternoon.  In the words of The Times, “Trafigura, the oil trader, is seeking to prevent publication of details of a new £6 million claim that it faces in the High Court.

The global company is being sued by an Irish management consultant, Kieran Looney, whom it hired to improve its management programme.

He claims that Trafigura breached their agreement by terminating his contract and is seeking £6m. The company denies the allegations.

Now the oil trader is going to the High Court to ensure the documents are “sealed”, preventing the allegations being aired, although they have previously been publicly available.”  ‘

No newspaper reported the outcome of the court hearing and only one newspaper report was filed and that was more than 1 month after Trafigura's attempt to stop the court papers becoming public.

I have made the court papers available online: 

Looney's claims  here

Trafigura's defence here

and now I must thank my source who does not want any publicity.

My story of the case starts here.  Quotes from Looney's claims are in green and from Trafigura's defence in blue.

Basically the case is one of two companies falling out over a contract. 

Was it terminated properly or not? 

Was the programme working? 

Did Trafigura act in good faith or with deliberation? 

The two sides answer these questions differently and, therefore, the court will decide. 

I would guess that the details of most cases of this type are very dry and boring and this is probably the reason why so little has been made public.  Hopefully I’ll be sparing enough with the details not to bore you.

“Kieran Looney & Associates, is a niche executive consultant who licenses his intellectual property and delivers management development programmes, in particular a performance management System ...”.

Trafigura and Looney entered an agreement for Looney's company to provide services designed “to improve management systems which Trafigura recognised as deficient  …..  to maintain growth and improve efficiency by equipping senior managers with new skills and tools.” over a three year period at £3million per year! 

Yes!  £3 million pounds a year! 

More than £8000 per day of every day of the year.

Trafigura unsurprisingly contested Looney's assertion of the scale of the problems.  Details of these are available in the Morning Star article or in my online copies (see above).

Key within the dispute is Looney's intellectual property.  Understandably, this was so important to him that the agreement had a section which dealt specifically with Materials and their use and sharing thereof.  Trafigura used the materials in ways which were understandable but which breached the Materials Agreement: these breaches were resolved amicably.

Separately Trafigura had bought a pc-based performance management system (now called Trafitalent) for all employees but they used some forms which, according to Looney, were based on his copyrighted materials.  Sorry, this is getting complicated.

Then in October 2009, despite claiming that he was given positive feedback about his programme, Looney was told that Trafigura had terminated the contract and they paid the early termination fee of £1 million. 

Trafigura claimed:

“During the course of October  2009, Trafigura undertook (through various management discussions) a review of how the KL program was progressing including an assessment of the benefits to date and the possible further benefits … if the Agreement continued over the next 2 years.  There was concern that the KL program was too time-consuming and insufficiently flexible for it to be of real value.  There was also concern about having to deal on a personal level with Mr Looney.”

I should note here that Looney also found Trafigura difficult to work with.

For reasons I didn't understand Looney claims that Trafigura's termination wasn't valid and so he later terminated the contract and claimed what I assume is the  remains of the full 3 year fee.

He also claims that Trafigura may have deliberately used him for long enough to get the materials and knowledge they required to allow them to input these into the Trafitalent system.

Unsurprisingly, Trafigura deny this.

Where is the truth in this?  I don't know, I can't know.   Each side is made to sound perfectly reasonable and the other to be unreasonable.  I’m quite happy to leave this to the courts to decide.

Oh, just to complicate matters further one more snippet.  Trafigura have counter-claimed against Looney for breaking a Confidentiality Agreement by disclosing private Trafigura information to The Guardian.

Ah, this is getting too much for me.  I've spent too long reading both documents and I need a break!!!

[PS: If either Looney or Trafigura believe that I have misrepresented their views or case then please email me at the address at the bottom of the lower bar on the RHS.]

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