Friday 23 February 2018

Fingleton to face tough questions in Nationwide probe

Tom Lyons

THE Central Bank of Ireland has stepped up its investigation in the past month into Irish Nationwide, the toxic building society whose collapse cost the taxpayer €5.4bn.

Investigators from the Central Bank have begun interviewing the society's former board about the bizarre goings-on in what is, relative to its size, Ireland's worst financial institution.

Despite four years having passed since the State's disastrous decision to guarantee the building society, its former boss Michael Fingleton has still not been questioned in detail by the Central Bank. He will be asked to be interviewed in the coming months.

The Central Bank is working with Ernst & Young on conducting its examination which is at an advanced stage but not yet officially an inquiry.

If the Central Bank decides senior figures in the society deserve to face a full inquiry it can fine individuals up to €500,000 each and disqualify them for a number of years from managing a regulated financial service provider.

Claire Taylor-Coulson, an assistant director in E&Y's London office, is aiding the Central Bank.

Terry Cooney, an accountant (and former tax adviser to the late Charles Haughey), who was a director from 2002 to 2009, has been interviewed in recent weeks by the Central Bank. His meeting lasted several hours and he was asked about his role on the board and how he interacted with and monitored Fingleton and finance director Stan Purcell.

Michael Walsh, a professor of banking, also faces rigorous questioning on his time as chairman from 2001 until 2009. Mr Walsh and other former directors will have to explain what the board knew about the society's lending and why more wasn't done to remedy its shoddy processes.

The Central Bank said its examination of Nationwide was "ongoing", and it could not comment further.

'Fingers: the Man Who Cost us €5.4bn'' by Tom Lyons and Richard Curran, is in all good bookshops now

Irish Independent

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