Thursday 19 April 2018

Inquiry into INBS can go ahead, court rules

Mr Justice John Hedigan
Mr Justice John Hedigan

Tim Healy

There is an "overwhelming" public interest in having an inquiry into the collapse of Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS), the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice John Hedigan made the remark when dismissing a challenge by John Stanley Purcell, a former director, financial controller and secretary of INBS, aimed at stopping the Central Bank's proposed administrative inquiry over past conduct of the society's affairs by those concerned with its management.

The collapse had left this country with a "colossal" financial liability estimated at €5bn, the judge said.

That fact was alone enough to outweigh Mr Purcell's claim the inquiry imposed a burden on him disproportionate to the public interest in inquiring into that collapse, the judge said.

The public interst in knowing what happened is "overwhelming".

The financial system needs "constant in-depth surveillance" if anything like the 2008 crash is to be avoided and "an inquest into what went wrong, and who was responsible, will be an essential part of such control".

It was to be hoped a "thorough" inquiry "will illuminate the mistakes, both corporate and personal, that brought about this collapse which was a national financial disaster".

He was giving his reserved judgment on two sets of proceedings by Mr Purcell against the Central Bank of Ireland and the State seeking judicial review and damages on grounds including claims his reputation and right to earn a living have been damaged as a consequence of the proposed inquiry.

Mr Purcell, an accountant, joined INBS in 1986 and was required, due to being a "legacy" director, to resign in 2010 from the Society after its takeover by State-owned IBRC.

Apart from some work including advising people with loan arrears, which has now ceased, he claimed he has been unable to find employment due to the planned inquiry and a civil action, since settled, by IBRC/INBS against him and other ex-directors.

Mr Justice Hedigan ruled many of the claims advanced by Mr Purcell had been decided by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan in a recent High Court judgment dismissing a similar challenge by former INBS managing director Michael Fingleton to the Central Bank inquiry.

Mr Justice Noonan's decision contained no apparent error, was based upon a review of significant relevant legal authorities and he must and would follow it, Mr Justice Hedigan said.

Irish Independent

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