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Monday 26 June 2017

Fingleton ready to give €1m to charity

Clarifies position on Government, his pension and Sean FitzPatrick

LIAM COLLINS EXCLUSIVE

THE former chief executive of Irish Nationwide Building Society, Michael Fingleton, wants to give his disputed bonus of €1m to charity without undue delay, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The money remains untouched in a deposit account in the building society he ran for 38 years.

In a dramatic development last night, a close associate of Mr Fingleton, speaking with authority, declared: "Mr Fingleton has never said he would keep the money for his own personal use. This was an option he never once considered. His intention always was to quietly distribute these funds to a number of Irish charities. It is still his preference that this should happen."

Mr Fingleton's position on the €1m payment and his pension plan are set out in a four-page letter dated September 25, 2009, and published in today's Sunday Independent, which he sent to Danny Kitchen, the INBS chairman and former director, who Mr Fingleton brought on to the board.

In this robust defence of his position, Mr Fingleton reveals his ongoing battle to have the payment recognised as "a contractual payment" and not the "performance bonus" described by the state-established Covered Institutions Remuneration Oversight Committee last February.

In March 2009, Mr Fingleton said he would be "pleased" to hand back the €1m -- provided certain conditions were met.

In the letter it is clear that Mr Fingleton harbours a grievance based on his belief that he was misled as to the Government's intentions. Mr Fingleton makes it clear that he agreed to give back the €1m last March because of an understanding with the Government, through an intermediary, that if he returned it there would be no further State interest in his bonus or his pension.

It was after Mr Fingleton gave this public commitment that the Minister for Finance announced an inquiry into these matters.

He believes he was released from this promise when the Government broke this agreement.

Mr Fingleton claims in the letter that: "At all times the Minister for Finance was fully aware of these discussions and subsequent agreements."

However, a source close to Brian Lenihan said that the minister had "come fresh" to the situation at that stage and had had no discussions with Mr Fingleton prior to initiating the inquiry.

In yesterday's statement, Mr Fingleton's associate said: "Mr Fingleton was specifically promised last May (2009) that he would be furnished with a copy of the reports of his so-called bonus (and his pension fund) which had been prepared and submitted to the Minister (for Finance Mr Lenihan). Despite numerous requests to the society in the intervening period this has not happened.

"When he does get the required copies of the reports then this matter can be speedily and swiftly brought to a conclusion and the funds dealt with appropriately. Mr Fingleton was always prepared to honour his commitments in this regard irrespective of his legal entitlements."

Mr Fingleton could not be contacted yesterday.

The letter he sent to Mr Kitchen sets out the history of his €1m payment and the intense attention it received from government.

"It is clear to me that spin, denial and politicisation of the issue had begun," said Mr Fingleton in the letter. "The resources and apparatus of the State were organised to create the perception, contrary to the legal position already accepted by both the Minister and his Department, that the payment to me was 'tainted' and in breach of the conditions of the 2008 scheme."

It is clear from the letter that Mr Fingleton believes he was legally entitled to be paid the €1m and that it was within his own discretion to disburse it in whatever way he chose. It is also clear that Mr Fingleton's belief is that this was lost sight of when the issue became politicised and took on a life of its own.

Mr Fingleton, in his letter, is adamant that there is "nothing improper, illegal or irregular" about loans to former Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick. "They were commercial loans on commercial terms," he said.

"For the record I wish to state that I never spoke to Mr FitzPatrick about these loans or he to me."

In the letter, Mr Fingleton states that he managed his own pension fund for some 20 years ("the fund performed exceptionally well") and that the cost to the society in contributions was less than €3m.

Sunday Independent

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