Saturday 23 September 2017

Mercs, perks and stress tests on shareholders' minds

Joe Brennan

Perhaps shareholder Neal Duggan got his idea from the psychological tests 'Celebrity Big Brother' contestants must go through before becoming a housemate.

But the well-known investor and thorn in the sides of Irish companies made it clear at BoI's EGM yesterday that if he got his way, all members of the board would be put through "stress tests" to assess their health and mental suitability to the task at hand in rebuilding the group.

Others were less circumspect. Shareholder Mary Fitzgerald said that her calls for a full resignation of BoI's board last March, as the bank sought approval for a €3.5bn bailout from the State, have fallen on deaf ears.

"Small shareholders are not being listened to," she said. "All (board members) are interested in is your huge salaries and your Mercs and perks". Chairman Pat Molloy said that there have been four changes over the past year across its 15-strong board and that the change of the guard is expected to continue.

But while the Government has appointed two public interest directors as a result of the 2008 guarantee scheme, it has still not named the two additional directors it is entitled to appoint following on from BoI's recapitalisation over nine months' ago.

Another shareholder said he had gotten out of his "bed of pain" yesterday after a minor operation to find out how an institution with over 200 years of banking experience could have been brought to its knees -- and how the board could be trusted to repair it.

Mistakes

"You'll have to judge us on our performance," was all Mr Molloy could offer. "This bank has gone through an extremely difficult time. Mistakes were made. We have in place the right team that, I believe, can take us from where we are to a much better place in future."

Other small investors wanted to know why they continue to see many of the faces that were on the podium before the crisis set in.

"I came into the job in July with an open mind," said Mr Molloy. "But having worked closely with this management team, I believe we have a strong team, strong leadership and are making good progress. My approach is to judge people on their performance."

Shareholder Peter Matthews, who took control of the roving microphone on a number of occasions, reserved particular ire for the fact that there is no political appetite for an inquiry into the virtual collapse of the country's banking system.

He said that if a plane had crashed in Dublin at the end of September 2008, the time that the snap guarantee scheme was announced, "we'd probably be at the end of a full inquiry into it".

And while he said that six banks were teetering on the brink of implosion at that stage, "nothing has happened".

Irish Independent

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