BIGGEST LAW FIRMS HIRE MORE SOLICITORS - Some of Ireland’s biggest law firms grew significantly last year, with one increasing its solicitor numbers by more than 15%, writes the Irish Times. Figures published by the Law Society show that, measured by the number of practicing solicitors’ certificates, four of the top five firms grew in 2012, bucking the trend in the profession in general. As of December 31st last year, Arthur Cox and Matheson both employed 228 solicitors, making them the largest in terms of staff numbers in the list. Matheson increased its solicitor numbers by 9.6% over the year, while Arthur Cox grew by 10.6%. The biggest increase was at the third largest firm, A&L Goodbody, which took on 29 new solicitors to bring its total to 212 , an expansion of almost 16%. A further three firms employ between 100 and 200 solicitors in terms of practising certificate numbers, with McCann FitzGerald on 170 (down seven), William Fry on 156 (up two) and Mason Hayes & Curran on 126 (up one). The picture was mixed among the remainder of the top 20, with most showing relatively small shifts in their numbers over the 12-month period to last December. The Law Society data, though superficial, are one of the very few measures provided by law firms of relative performance as almost all firms do not publish details of their financial performance.
INSURANCE FIRMS AT CENTRE OF DATA PROTECTION REPORT - The prosecution of three large insurance companies for breaking data protection laws will be among the key points of the 2012 annual report by Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes today. The unusual case last year led to guilty pleas by Zurich Insurance Plc, FBD Insurance Plc and Travelers Insurance Company Ltd, on 10 counts of violating the Data Protection Act at the Dublin District Court last February. The Irish Independent says that the companies admitted to possessing personal information on 15 people that was obtained by a private detective - who was leaked the information from the Department of Social Protection. The companies faced possible fines of €3,000 per count, however Judge Ann Ryan ruled they would be spared criminal convictions and fines if they donated €20,000 each to a homeless charity. A full report of the Data Protection Commission audit of "an external agency access to one of the Department of Social Protection's client databases" will be included in the report. The court heard how the initial probe by the commission found that personal information concerning people's employment histories as well as earnings and welfare claims eventually "made its way to insurance companies".
CONFERENCES WORTH €37m TO ECONOMY - International conferences hosted in Ireland over the first six months of the year are expected to have a €37m impact on the Irish economy, according to Fáilte Ireland. The Irish Examiner says that a total of 114 international business events are taking place in Ireland in the first six months of the year, bringing a total of approximately 31,000 delegates with an overall estimated economic impact of €37m. And businesses in the Republic of Ireland, and in particular those in the hospitality sector in the border counties, will share in approximately €2.5m in new business in just over two days of the upcoming G8 Summit, according to a new study published by Barclays, and carried out by the University of Ulster. The survey is based on interviews with business people in Northern Ireland and an evaluation of evidence from the Gleneagles summit in Scotland. Commenting on the Fáilte Ireland figures, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring said: “It is clear that the business tourism sector is in good health and bringing tangible results - delivering business and benefits to this country’s economic recovery. “The added attraction this year of the Gathering has meant delegates are taking time to spend a few extra days in Ireland and in return bringing even more revenue,” he said. For the first six months of this year, the top ten conferences alone will bring in 8,766 delegates and have an economic impact of almost €11m.
APPLE FACES GRILLING OVER US TAX RATE - Apple would have paid a tax rate of about 15% last year, far below the 25.2% it reported, had it not used a form of reserve accounting that sets it apart from other big US technology companies. The rare accounting treatment has helped to distract attention from Apple at a time when the tax-avoidance strategies of other cash-rich US tech companies, notably Google, have come under public attack, according to tax experts. However, Apple’s tax planning is likely to come under the microscope on Tuesday when Tim Cook, chief executive, appears before the US Senate’s permanent investigations subcommittee. The committee, which has already grilled executives from Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, has targeted the techniques US companies use to shift profits to lower-tax countries. Like other US multinationals, Apple does not reveal how it shuffles costs and revenues between subsidiaries in different countries, making it hard to assess how it determines where its taxable profits are earned, according to analysts.