Smile Train UK to pursue former trustee for £633,000 of unauthorised payments

The High Court dismisses Brian Mullaney's application to bring a counterclaim against the cleft lip and palate charity

Brian Mullaney
Brian Mullaney

The cleft lip and palate charity Smile Train UK will pursue a former trustee for more than £633,000 made in unauthorised payments to him after the High Court dismissed his application for permission to bring a counterclaim.

In December, Master Marsh at the High Court ruled in a summary judgment that Brian Mullaney, a former chief executive of Smile Train Inc in the US and a former trustee of its UK arm Smile Train UK, should repay a series of unauthorised payments amounting to £633,509 for his work for the UK charity in the financial years 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011, but not 2009.

A spokesman for the Royal Courts of Justice said Mullaney had sought permission to bring a counterclaim for relief from liability, but his application had been refused.

A spokeswoman for Smile Train UK said in a statement that Mullaney had contended at the hearing on 30 January that he should be relieved from liability for breach of duty because he had "acted honestly and reasonably".

He had also asked for a stay of the December decision if the counterclaim were to be heard, she added.

But Master Marsh dismissed Mullaney’s application and instead ordered that he pay Smile Train UK’s costs, the charity’s spokeswoman said. The charity now intends to pursue Mullaney, who lives in the US, for the money.

Susannah Schaefer, a Smile Train UK trustee, said in a statement: "Smile Train is pleased that the High Court has dismissed Mullaney’s attempt to unnecessarily protract proceedings. This ruling means we can now pursue enforcement of the December UK judgment against Mullaney in the US, where he is resident. We are determined to ensure the charity is compensated for the totality of unauthorised payments Mullaney received between 2007 and 2011."

Mullaney said in a statement that he viewed the case as a "revenge" lawsuit after he had resisted a takeover of Smile Train in 2010. He said in a statement: "It breaks my heart to see Smile Train, a charity that I started and ran for 10 years, a charity that was once one of the most respected and best-managed charities in America, lose its way like this."

He did not say whether he intended to appeal against the High Court ruling.

Mullaney left Smile Train Inc in 2012 and stopped being a trustee of STUK in 2011. He is now chief executive of Wonderwork, a US-based charity he co-founded that helps children with potentially fatal medical problems that can be solved by surgery.

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