Sunday 21 April 2019

Neary, Fingleton clash at banking probe over meeting

Patrick Neary (pictured) disputed Michael Fingleton’s account of a chance encounter in 2007. Photo:
Patrick Neary (pictured) disputed Michael Fingleton’s account of a chance encounter in 2007. Photo:

Gretchen Friemann

Fomer financial regulator Patrick Neary has disputed Michael Fingleton's account of a chance encounter on the Luas in 2007, claiming he was unable to recall whether he discussed the planned retirement of the once prominent banker.

Mr Fingleton, who ran Irish Nationwide Building Society in 1971 and retired in April 2009, was cross-examining Mr Neary at the Central Bank's ongoing inquiry into alleged regulatory breaches at the lender.

The lapse of memory contrasts with Mr Fingleton's vivid recollection of the incident in October 2007. In December, he told the inquiry Mr Neary was "visibly shocked and pleaded with me to stay on".

When asked by Mr Fingleton if he recalled "meeting me on the Luas and I told you I was retiring", Mr Neary replied: "I remember meeting you on the Luas, I don't remember what we talked about because it was a journey from St Stephen's Green." When pressed again, "Do you not remember we talked about my retirement", Mr Neary insisted he didn't think he would have given "any great standing" to a conversation on the Luas, when they "were surrounded by passengers".

Michael Fingleton. Photo:
Michael Fingleton. Photo:

When asked by Mr Fingleton whether he expressed some disappointment that he was retiring at that time, Mr Neary said: "I would have preferred you not to go at that time."

On Monday, under interrogation by SC Brian O'Moore, Mr Neary conceded there were repeated governance lapses at INBS. But Mr Fingleton insisted the Society was "active" in addressing the regulator's concerns about its growth in to commercial lending in the boom era, pointing out management established a commercial administration section and a credit risk department, along with an internal auditor that reported to the three non-executive directors on INBS's audit committee.

Mr Fingleton also forcibly objected to the characterisation of him as a "dominant force" in INBS, at one point thumping his fist on the desk. Referring to Mr Neary as 'Pat', he said there is some "impression being given that we had no controls in place or little controls, when in fact we had controls at the top that were material and relevant to any corporate governance circumstance".

INBS collapsed into State ownership in 2010 leaving taxpayers with a €5.4bn clean-up bill.

Irish Independent

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