Fingleton misses tribunal for court case in Eastern Europe
Published 16/09/2011 | 05:00
THE disgraced former chief executive of Irish Nationwide, Michael Fingleton, yesterday failed to turn up to an Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing -- because he was in a foreign court.
The retired head of the now nationalised lender had been summoned to attend the tribunal to give evidence in the unfair dismissal case of branch manager and former Monaghan inter-county GAA star Brendan Beggan (48).
Chairman Dermot MacCarthy said Mr Fingleton informed the tribunal in a telephone call that he was willing and "eager" to appear.
But he said he was unable to do so yesterday because he was in court in Eastern Europe. It was unclear last night why Mr Fingleton was in court.
Mr Fingleton's chief investment in Eastern Europe is in Montenegro, where he owns an abandoned hotel which he intended to re-build along with other Irish investors.
Sources familiar with Mr Fingleton's finances said this site, the Hotel Fjord in the town of Kotor, absorbs a lot of his time at present and any dispute involving Mr Fingleton was likely to relate to this asset.
Last year Mr Fingleton listed the hotel in Montenegro as his most valuable asset. He was not available to comment yesterday
Mr MacCarthy said Mr Fingleton "might have litigation in many jurisdictions pending".
His absence came as a former employee of Nationwide accused him of running the company like a "personal bank".
Mr Fingleton was due to answer allegations that he presided over extremely lax lending practices at the building society and that staff operated in a culture of fear.
Mr Beggan's legal team will have to serve a second summons on Mr Fingleton, with the provisional date for the next hearing set at November 28.
Mary Paula Guinness, counsel for Mr Beggan, said it took "quite a time" to serve the original subpoena and she would not like to go through it again.
Mr Beggan claims he was unfairly dismissed in July 2009, after failing to repay a loan.
His partner, Olivia Greene, was the whistleblower who last year revealed that Mr Fingleton fast-tracked loans to Fianna Fail politicians -- including €1.6m for former European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy.
Ms Greene, who worked as a home loans supervisor, gave evidence to the tribunal yesterday.
She was cut-off by the chairman as she alleged that Mr Fingleton had once "gifted two country houses" to members of his inner circle.
Mr MacCarthy said that Mr Fingleton was not there to defend himself and questioned the relevance of the evidence.
Counsel for Mr Beggan said it was relevant because the evidence revealed the culture of the building society, which was central to her client's case.
Ms Greene claimed that under Mr Fingleton the building society was run as a "personal bank" and that he "made up the rules as he went along".
She alleged that people in his social circle and who were friendly with him would get special treatment "that maybe no-one else would know about".
"There was a certain criteria for the general public and another set of rules for the government, members of the media and people in his social circle," she told the tribunal.
It is understood that Mr Beggan has substantial outstanding loans and mortgages with Nationwide for five properties in Co Monaghan, including his family home .
In cross-examination, he denied accusations that he withheld information from the building society regarding the sale of the Monaghan properties for more than €800,000 in 2004.
He said he informed Mr Fingleton about the sale in 2005.
Put to him that his account of a disciplinary meeting was almost completely at odds with the evidence of two Nationwide executives, he said that neither took notes of the meeting -- despite claiming that they did so but shredded them soon after.
"I'm an honest man," Mr Beggan told the tribunal.