A major inquiry into the conduct and performance of Anglo Irish Bank's former auditors is in danger of being halted on foot of a legal challenge.
Ernst & Young, auditors to Anglo in the period before it was nationalised, were given High Court permission yesterday to bring a challenge to an investigation by the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (CARB). The case will come to court again on Monday.
In response to a query from the Irish Independent, a spokesman for CARB said it would mount a "robust defence'' to any challenge to its disciplinary procedures.
Ernst & Young wants to stop an inquiry by special investigator John Purcell who was appointed by the CARB.
Mr Purcell was close to completing his investigation and findings were expected to be released either this month or early in May.
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, president of the High Court, gave permission to the firm to bring proceedings to quash the appointment of Mr Purcell by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland, which established CARB.
Mr Purcell was appointed after the CARB complaints committee considered the issue of alleged inappropriate directors' loans at Anglo and the role played by institute member Ernst and Young as auditors to the bank.
Paul Sreenan, for Ernst and Young, told the court yesterday his client had been co-operating with the investigation, but at the end of last month it discovered no actual complaint had been made against it as is required under the CARB process.
When Ernst and Young sought clarification, it found no clear issue had been identified. Instead, the investigator's initial findings merely referred to media reports, he said.
In order to respond to the investigator's initial findings, the company must be allowed to know what rule or regulation it was supposed to have broken, Mr Sreenan said.
It wants an order quashing the decision to appoint the special investigator o,r alternatively, orders which would allow the firm access to the findings of the investigator and the right to make submissions before the findings are finalised.