Business Irish

Monday 21 January 2019

Ex-INBS chief Fingleton insists he had quit credit committee

INBS’s former managing director Michael Fingletonance
INBS’s former managing director Michael Fingletonance

Gretchen Friemann

Michael Fingleton, the former Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) managing director, repeatedly denied he had been a member of the lender's credit committee in the run-up to the crash - insisting he had "removed" himself from the role in 2003 to quell concerns INBS was a "one-man society".

Under cross-examination for the first time at the Central Bank's ongoing inquiry into alleged regulatory breaches at the lender, which was nationalised during the crash at a cost of €5.4bn, Mr Fingleton said he would have corrected the record of his mistaken membership if somebody had brought the oversight to his attention.

In an often heated exchange with Brian O'Moore, senior counsel and part of the inquiry's legal team, the now octogenarian ex-banker stuck rigidly to his line that while he had been listed as a member of the credit committee, he did not "regard himself as a member".

"If I had been", Mr Fingleton said, "I would have attended the meetings".

He said he had informed INBS's long-standing head of finance Stan Purcell in 2003 of his decision to exclude himself from this role. Mr Purcell has told the inquiry he has no memory of such a conversation.

In December 2004, documents show the board formally appointed Mr Fingleton to the credit committee. After this point, Mr O'Moore asked, "did you tell anyone in the society that you were not really a member of the committee". "It never arose", Mr Fingleton replied.

Two years later in 2006, when the credit committee's terms of reference were changed as part of a wider exercise aimed at tightening the organisation's governance procedures, following probes by the regulator, board documents show Mr Fingleton was again approved as a member of the sub-committee.

That record was a mistake that no-one queried, Mr Fingleton said. "It never crossed my mind to clarify," Mr Fingleton said, but "if it had come up, I would have clarified it, no problem".

Mr O'Moore said three letters to the regulator from the period listed Mr Fingleton as a member of the credit committee and were all signed off by Mr Fingleton. The final letter addressed the regulator's concerns at the time about Mr Fingleton's lack of attendance at credit committee meetings. "I think you would agree," Mr O'Moore argued, that the "obvious thing to say, is that the reason you are not attending is because you are not a member of the credit committee". Mr Fingleton said he had "probably" not read the letters and that it was Mr Purcell's domain to draft responses to the regulator.

One particularly terse exchange during the two-and-a-half hour session yesterday drew a rare intervention from inquiry chairwoman, solicitor Marian Shanley. "We do really require civility between all parties here," she said.

Irish Independent

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