Firm linked to U2 drummer Larry Mullen and comic John Bishop sues Irish tech entrepreneur – Independent.ie
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Brendan Morrissey denies fraud claim
Actor and comedian John Bishop. Photo: Fran Veale
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A software company whose investors include U2 drummer Larry Mullen and well-known British stand-up comedian and actor John Bishop is suing an Irish entrepreneur for allegedly defrauding it of over €1m.
Hears Technology Ltd, a firm set up to develop and market an app for people with hearing difficulties, claims to have been defrauded by Brendan Morrissey and Maltese-registered BAK Holdings Limited.
In proceedings entered on to the list of the Commercial Court, the firm claims it paid BAK more than €1m for software development services which transpired to have been worth just €232,000.
Claims of fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract and negligence are denied by Mr Morrissey, of Kells, Co Kilkenny, a serial tech investor and one-time guitarist in rock band My Little Funhouse.
The case was entered on to the court’s list following an application by Eoghan Cole BL, for Hears.
In an affidavit, Mr Bishop, a director of Hears, outlined how the board removed Mr Morrissey’s wife Karen Morrissey as company secretary earlier this year and cancelled a bank mandate after a series of payments were made to BAK.
The comedian outlined how in 2019 his son Joe, who is hard of hearing, came up with the idea for an app which would allow people to take a hearing test on their smartphone, facilitating the purchase of bespoke hearing aids.
He said a mutual friend introduced them to Mr Morrissey, who presented himself as a successful serial entrepreneur, the following year.
Mr Bishop said: “He held himself out to be greatly interested in the idea of our app and in bringing it to fruition. He claimed that he had many relevant contacts globally across the various spheres of technology that he was involved in.”
Mr Bishop made a cash investment of €558,440 in Hears, while Mr Morrissey invested the same sum via a credit note for software development services to be provided by his firm BAK Holdings. Mr Mullen invested €550,000.
The comedian alleged a breakdown of the relationship with Mr Morrissey occurred towards the end of last year after he sought and was refused details regarding delays in the project and costs.
He also began demanding that he be provided with the software code so he could have it independently assessed and valued. However, he said Mr Morrissey refused to provide it, pointing to concerns the company’s confidential information would be compromised. Mr Bishop said he now believed this was “a mere smokescreen”.
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He said he discovered last February that a €558,400 payment, the precise value of his own investment, had been made to BAK without the knowledge or approval of him or other directors two years earlier. Mr Bishop claimed Mr Morrissey and his wife Karen were the only people with access to the company’s bank account at the time.
The comedian said it was unclear what BAK had done to be entitled to this level of remuneration.
Mr Bishop claimed he was told by Mr Morrissey a third-party provider had broken its contracts with Hears, meaning the firm would have to build its own code from scratch, at a cost of €350,000. This sum was paid to BAK in February 2021.
Hears hired a chief executive in April last year to ready itself for the launch of the app.
However, no launch took place and Mr Bishop claimed little or no information was provided by Mr Morrissey regarding progress.
Further invoices were presented by BAK in September last year, resulting in payments of €85,000 and €70,000 to the company. Last February, the board decided there should be no further payments to BAK without its approval.
However, Mr Bishop claimed BAK was paid a further €99,500 between March 31 and April 6. “These payments out were authorised by the Morrisseys, in favour of BAK, and by no one else,” Mr Bishop said.
Soon after this, the board removed Mrs Morrissey as company secretary.
Although the software code was eventually produced, Mr Bishop said in his affidavit that, on investigation, the likely costs of what was provided totalled £200,000 (€232,000).
Rossa Fanning SC, for BAK and Mr Morrissey, told the court the action was “completely misguided”.
In an affidavit, Mr Morrissey said Mr Bishop’s claims were “extraordinary and entirely without substance”.
He alleged the comedian had “unlawfully seized control” of the company and was now using it “as a vehicle to sue me and to attack my integrity and professional reputation”.
Mr Morrissey said he had built or invested in a portfolio of more than 20 technology firms with a combined revenue of $211m (€213m) in 2021.
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