Friday 30 September 2016

Fingleton loses bid to block Central Bank probe into Nationwide

Aodhan O'Faolain

Published 05/01/2016 | 02:30

Mr Fingleton claimed that proceeding with the inquiry is a breach of fair procedures and an unlawful breach of his right to a fair hearing. Photo: Tom Burke
Mr Fingleton claimed that proceeding with the inquiry is a breach of fair procedures and an unlawful breach of his right to a fair hearing. Photo: Tom Burke

Former Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) chief Michael Fingleton has lost his High Court action aimed at preventing the Central Bank from conducting an inquiry into alleged regulatory breaches at the financial institution.

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Mr Fingleton, along with several other former officials of INBS, are the subject of a Central Bank inquiry that is due to start hearings in February.

He challenged the Central Bank's decision to subject him to an inquiry, claiming it was unfair and unreasonable.

The Central Bank opposed the application. It wants to inquire into allegations that certain prescribed contraventions were committed by both INBS, and certain persons concerned with its management, between August 2004 and September 2008.

Giving judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan dismissed Mr Fingleton's action, clearing the way for the inquiry to proceed.

In a lengthy and detailed ruling, Mr Justice Noonan said Mr Fingleton had "not satisfied me that there is any unfairness inherent in the inquiry process to which he is subject". Mr Fingleton was not present in court.

The inquiry, in the event of any finding of wrongdoing, has the power to impose a fine on an individual of up to €500,000.

The Central Bank estimates the collapse of INBS cost the taxpayer €5bn, although the figure is disputed by Mr Fingleton.

In his action, Mr Fingleton sought various orders from the court in respect of the Central Bank inquiry, which he claims is disproportionate, oppressive and unreasonable.

Mr Fingleton, pictured, also claimed that proceeding with the inquiry is a breach of fair procedures and an unlawful breach of his right to a fair hearing. He argued the Central Bank cannot conduct an inquiry of this nature because he retired in 2010, and is no longer involved in the management of an entity that was a regulated financial service provider.

The Central Bank had rejected all of Mr Fingelton's arguments and said there was nothing preventing the inquiry from proceeding.

In his decision, Mr Justice Noonan dismissed all grounds of Mr Fingelton's case.

The inquiry, and the elaborate procedures provided for in the 1942 Central Bank Act, ensured Mr Fingleton's right to a fair hearing "is guaranteed", the judge added.

"It seems to me that the public interest is well served by a credible system of financial regulation and enforcement such as that provided in the 1942 Act," the judge said.

Much of Mr Fingelton's claim, the judge said, was "an attempt to preempt in advance issues before the inquiry that may or may not arise, or be determined by the inquiry itself".

Any suggestion Mr Fingleton will be subject to any prejudice by the inquiry, the judge found, was "devoid of substance and without merit".

Irish Independent

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