Business Irish

Thursday 18 July 2019

Fingelton - INBS board had 'ultimate responsibility' for failure, not him

Michael Fingleton
Michael Fingleton

Gretchen Friemann

Michael Fingleton, who led Irish Nationwide Building Society for 38 years, yesterday claimed the board should bear "ultimate responsibility" for the now-defunct organisation's failings and argued his "dominance" as managing director had become "diluted" by the turn of the century as he oversaw its growth and expansion into UK and European markets.

On his second day of cross-examination at the Central Bank's inquiry into INBS, the once prominent ex-banker refused to accept blame for the Society's provision of inaccurate information to the corporate watchdog, but said if he had been made "aware of some deficiency", he would have acted.

As head of INBS he relied on his team of executives and senior management, who he described as "competent people", to provide him with accurate information, he said.

Brian O'Moore, senior counsel and a member of the legal team assisting the inquiry, asked whether Mr Fingleton did not "accept a smidgeon of responsibility" for what were characterised as misrepresentations made to the then financial regulator and external auditors, KPMG.

Mr Fingleton countered he could only "rely on the information provided" by his senior team. He said that without "trust' in an organisation "you may as well close shop".

Mr O'Moore asked if that trust had been "misplaced", given that Tom McMenamin - INBS's head of commercial lending - had admitted to the inquiry that information provided to the lender's credit committee was a "bit of a sham".

Mr Fingleton said "Mr McMenamin did not carry out the function he was obliged to carry out".

When asked if he felt a "pang of regret" about not taking up his place on the credit committee, to which he was appointed on several occasions, as that may have "avoided [an] untruth being unleashed on the regulator", Mr Fingleton re-iterated he would have taken action if a "specific" problem had been brought to his attention.

He stressed he was not a member of the credit committee until the end of 2007.

He argued that as INBS "evolved" from the late 1990s he no longer possessed "knowledge or control of the detail" and became more of a chief executive with a focus on "overall" development of the Society than a "hands-on" managing director.

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