Friday 15 December 2017

Former CEO Michael Fingleton faces public grilling on Nationwide meltdown

Michael Fingleton
Michael Fingleton
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Former chief executive Michael Fingleton and other senior figures at Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) face a public grilling at hearings ordered into the €5.4bn collapse of the lender as part of a Central Bank probe.

The Central Bank announced yesterday that it had appointed a panel of outside experts to investigate what it described as suspected regulatory breaches at INBS before it was bailed out and nationalised.

The latest phase in the long- running investigation comes five years after the bank was nationalised at massive cost to taxpayers.

In an unprecedented move the inquiry, which is being established under the Central Bank Act, will involve public hearings.

Where evidence of wrong-doing is found, fines of up to €1m for individuals and €10m can be levied under the Central Bank process.

The INBS inquiry will be run by a three-member panel chaired by solicitor Marian Shanley, who has previously acted as a commissioner to the Child Abuse Commission, solicitor to the Ferns Inquiry into child abuse, and who is currently solicitor and registrar to the Fennelly Commission, which is investigating recording of phone calls at garda stations.

The panel also includes barrister and accountant Ciara McGoldrick, and Geoffrey McEnenry, formerly a senior banker at Lloyds in Hong Kong.

It is not clear when live hearings will begin. Questionnaires prepared by the panel are currently being sent to a number of individuals connected to INBS as part of the evidence-gathering phase.

Last night the Central Bank declined to name any individuals who have been written to or who are expected to appear at the public hearings. However, former chief executive Michael Fingleton is certain to be among the key witnesses at any inquiry into the failed lender, along with other senior executives and directors.

Mr Fingleton was INBS chief executive for 38 years before he stood down in March 2009 after receiving a highly controversial €1m bonus and a retirement gift of a €11,500 watch.

The long-running Central Bank probe into INBS has been hampered by poor record-keeping at the bank prior to its bailout and legal cases involving former directors and liquidators who took control of its assets in 2013.

The INBS probe was run separately to an Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE)-led investigation into the former Anglo Irish Bank, which later merged with INBS, because as a building society INBS was not subject to oversight by the Companies Office.

The panel includes:

Marian Shanley, who was appointed as a commissioner to the Child Abuse Commission in 2005. In 2002, she was appointed as solicitor to the Ferns Inquiry. She served as a Law Reform Commissioner from 2002 to 2012 and is currently solicitor and registrar to the Fennelly Commission.

Ciara McGoldrick, a barrister and accountant. She is a former deputy registrar and head of fitness-to-practise and legal affairs at the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the statutory regulator of the pharmacy sector.

Geoffrey McEnery, who has over 40 years banking experience including 28 as a senior executive. He is a former chief executive of LloydsTSB Bank in Asia, based in Hong Kong. He is also a former main board director of Hill Samuel Bank in London.

Irish Independent

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