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Saturday 20 September 2014

Letter on loan 'warranted the dismissal' of AIB manager

Brian McDonald

Published 08/07/2014 | 02:30

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Declan Maher. Photo: Andrew Downes

A SENIOR Counsel appointed as an independent investigator concluded that a bank manager warranted dismissal as a result of writing a letter sanctioning a $60m (€45m) loan in principle to a company of which he was joint owner.

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Senan Allen SC was an agreed investigator between AIB and bank manager Declan Maher, from Clifden, Co Galway. He was appointed as the fourth and final stage of the disciplinary process initiated against Mr Maher by the bank.

Mr Maher is claiming unfair dismissal and seeking compensation from AIB after his position at AIB Clifden was terminated in 2011. It followed an internal investigation into the letter he wrote on AIB headed notepaper, committing the funds to BMP Partnership in 2005.

BMP Partnership was a joint venture between Mr Maher and his accountant Kevin Barry. An initial Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing earlier this year heard in the letter, dated April 21, 2005, Mr Maher claimed AIB was "agreeable in principle" to advance $60m to BMP Partnership to complete the purchase of 100 villas in Florida.

The tribunal heard that no official application was ever made and no loan was ever issued in the matter.

The letter sent by Mr Maher to Mr Barry on April 21, which was read to the tribunal, said: "I refer to your recent application on behalf of BMB Partnership to borrow $60m to complete the purchase of 100 villas (known as Gables on the Green) in Orlando, Florida.

"I understand that these monies will not be required until the villas are fully completed, which date is estimated to be in approximately 12 months.

"Based on the data submitted, I can confirm we are agreeable in principle to advance these funds to your group, subject to the following . . ."

The letter went on to include five detailed conditions. But an internal investigation could find no paper trail for any loan application submitted by BMP Partnership.

Mr Maher denied the letter amounted to a loan sanction in principle, insisting that it was a marketing letter to attract new business.

At the resumed EAT hearing in Galway yesterday, Mr Allen said he had held a completely new hearing over two days into the circumstances surrounding Mr Maher's dismissal.

He did not feel bound in any way by any other decision reached in the disciplinary process.

He was satisfied "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the letter written by Mr Maher was a letter of sanction in principle and was not "a nothing letter" as had been claimed.

"I am satisfied that when Mr Maher wrote the letter on April 21, 2005, it was calculated to encourage investment in the project which Mr Maher was promoting," he said.

There was "a clear conflict of interest" and he came to the conclusion that Mr Maher was guilty of gross misconduct, warranting dismissal.

Cross-examined by Mr Maher about the existence of any evidence that he had used the letter for personal gain, Mr Allen said "I have bullets flying, I don't have any bodies. The bullets are good enough for me".

He agreed that Mr Maher had been winning new business for the bank and his annual performance review indicated he was doing a good job.

Mr Allen also agreed he had not interviewed the senior bank official who had investigated the matter internally.

He agreed with Mr Maher's conclusion that the fact that the official's report which contained appendices dated after he had retired from the bank indicated that he did not, in fact, have any involvement in writing the report.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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