€1m bonus banker Michael Fingleton claims he ran Irish Nationwide in ‘best manner’
DISGRACED Irish Nationwide chief Michael Fingleton has slammed claims that he ran the business as "a personal bank" as slander. The former building society boss has continued to refuse to repay the €1m bonus he received just weeks before the business had to be guaranteed by taxpayers.
Mr Fingleton, who also received a €27.6m pension package, today took umbrage at comments made at an Employment Appeals Tribunal.
Speaking after being called as a witness in a case being taken by former Nationwide branch manager Brendan Beggan, Mr Fingleton replied "absolutely not" when it was put to him that a number of witnesses at the hearing had made this claim.
"I wish to refute in the strongest possible terms claims I ran it as a personal bank, that is an absolute slander and totally untrue.
"I ran the society in the best possible manner," he said.
Speaking after giving evidence, he addressed the tribunal saying claims he had given loans to certain people that were not to be paid back were "outrageous".
At a previous hearing Olivia Greene, the partner of Mr Beggan and a former INBS employee, said Mr Fingleton ran Nationwide as a "personal bank" with different lending criteria for members of the government, media and close friends.
Mr Fingleton told the hearing that any lending was based on certain criteria being met, as set out by the lending manager, who would have "assured me all requirements and ability to repay had been complied with".
Mr Beggan, who was the manager of the Monaghan branch, was dismissed in 2009 for the alleged selling of property but not notifying the society about the sale or using the funds to repay a mortgage on the land.
The hearing was told today of €1.5m in loans being approved for Mr Beggan.
Mr Fingleton said he had no personal knowledge of the lending. However, counsel for Mr Beggan, Mary Paula McGuinness, produced lending documentation claiming to show he had approved the lending.
Asked why Mr Beggan was able to borrow multiples of his salary, he said "it was a matter for the loans manager, it was certainly nothing to do with me".
He added "maybe a certain amount of leeway" was given to Mr Beggan as a manager. Asked was leeway given to others, Mr Fingleton said no.
He said in 2007 the loans to Mr Beggan came to light during an internal review at the bank. Mr Fingleton said he was "amazed at the extent of the loans granted and the level of exposure the society had to Mr Beggan".
Asked "were loans approved at your discretion", he said "absolutely not". He added: "If discretions were to be considered, it may have been referred to me".
The new Irish Bank Resolution Corporation - the new name for the entity created when Irish Nationwide was merged with Anglo Irish Bank - is seeking the return of the €1m bonus Mr Fingleton received and a watch given to him.