Sunday 23 October 2016

Former Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton launches court bid to halt inquiry into alleged breaches at company

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

Published 08/09/2015 | 14:50

Michael Fingleton
Michael Fingleton

Former Irish Nationwide Building Society CEO Michael Fingleton has launched High Court proceedings aimed at stopping the Central Bank from conducting an inquiry into alleged regulatory breaches at the financial institution.

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Mr Fingleton, with several others, is a subject of the Central Bank's inquiry into allegations that certain proscribed contraventions were committed by both INBS, and certain persons concerned with it's management, between August 2004 and September 2008.

The inquiry, in the event of any finding of wrong doing, has the power to impose a fine on an individual of up to €1m.

 Mr Justice Michael White today granted lawyers acting for Fingleton permission to bring proceedings aimed at preventing the Central Bank from holding the inquiry.

Barrister Francis Kieran, counsel for Fingleton, said his client was seeking various orders and declarations because he believes the holding of an inquiry disproportionate, oppressive and unreasonable.

Mr Kieran said the challenge was based on a number of grounds including that there had been a lengthy delay in bringing the inquiry.

It was also argued that the Central Bank could not conduct an inquiry of this nature because Mr Fingleton, who retired in 2010 is no longer involved in the management of a regulated financial service provider.

Mr Kieran said Mr Fingleton was also the subject of proceedings before the Commercial Court, also arising out of events at INBS before it was nationalised. The inquiry, at the very least, should not be conducted until those proceedings had been concluded. 

Other grounds include there was an apprehension of bias on the part of the Central Bank and Mr Fingleton had been the subject of a large volume of adverse  media attention.

Mr Kieran also claimed that the decision to subject Mr Fingleton to an inquiry of this nature was oppressive. The application, which was granted on an ex parte basis, was made returnable by the Judge to September 17th.

On that date the High Court will hear an application for the inquiry to be put on hold until a separate challenge brought by another former executive at the INBS, Mr John S. Purcell, has been determined.  

In that action Purcell, who resigned as a director of INBS in 2010, has sued the Central Bank, Ireland and the Attorney General claiming the inquiry, and the powers it purports to exercise, are unconstitutional. 

His lawyers claim the inquiry will act in a manner that is expressly reserved for the courts. This it is claimed amounts to a contravention of Article 34 of the Constitutions.

As part of his challenge Mr Purcell, Fortfield Park, Terenure, Dublin 6w is seeking an injunction restraining the Central Bank from proceeding to hold the inquiry until the constitutional challenge has been determined by the High Court.

The application for the inquiry to be stayed is expected to be contested.

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