Sunday 25 March 2018

Labour senator wants public interest director reform


THE Labour Seanad Finance spokesman John Gilroy has told Michael Noonan of his intent to amend the Companies Act in the new year to allow public interest directors to give priority to representing the interests of the citizen.

The senator also wants to reform the scenario where "there is no provision in the legislation'' establishing these directors "for the removal of a public interest director''.

Mr Gilroy was responding to public anger surrounding the comments of Ray MacSharry that homeow- ners on Permanent TSB mortgages will get "no debt forgiveness''.

The precise role of many public interest directors, who have cost the taxpayer €2m in the last three years, has also been the source of escalating concern.

Last week, the former FF minister Joe Walsh, who has pocketed €238,000 in director's fees, admitted he had not met Michael Noonan in the last two years.

The theory behind the appointment of public interest directors in the Credit Institutions Act was that they would represent the interests of taxpayers.

But Mr Gilroy noted that "the legislation appointing public interest directors says their primary duty is to the public interest, but the Companies Act says precisely the opposite, that directors must put the interests of the company first.''

The senator warned that "a serious conflict of interest exists'' and that there was a need for legislation to remove "the stark conflict'' between the two.

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Mr Gilroy said that the initial reasoning behind the absence of "legislation to remove public interest directors'' was a concern that "politicians might be seen to be interfering''.

The senator noted that, in an initial meeting, Finance Minister Mr Noonan "was noncommittal'' but "I will be meeting him again on the issue''.

But he warned that, "if nothing is done to resolve the current situation we will be accused, rightly so, of using public interest directors as window dressing''.

Sunday Independent

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