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Dan White: We pay for Fingers' reckless banking, he gets bonus, €27m pension and a pricey watch

In April 2009, just weeks after he was forced to retire after 37 disastrous years as Irish Nationwide boss, Fingleton was presented with an €11,500 watch by the bankrupt building society to mark the occasion.

Just to rub salt in the taxpayers' wounds, the Irish Nationwide also paid benefit in kind of €9,650, so that Fingleton wouldn't have to pay tax on his fancy new timepiece. This brought the total cost to Irish Nationwide, i.e. taxpayers like you and I, to €21,150.

While that might not seem like a lot of money to "Fingers", it would pay the Government's new €100 property tax for 211 families. It also represents almost eight months' earnings for the average workers. In other words, serious money for those of us who live out there in the real world.


The watch scandal merely represents the latest case of Fingleton and the Irish Nationwide playing fast and loose with members' and the taxpayers' money.

In 2007, the Nationwide transferred a massive €27.6m pension pot to Fingleton. Yep, that's right folks. At a time when the Nationwide, whose reckless lending to builders and property developers made Anglo Irish seem like a model of prudent banking, was rapidly heading over a cliff, the building society was handing over a king's ransom to Fingleton, the man primarily responsible for the mess.

Then, just over a year later in late 2008, just weeks after the Government had been forced to unconditionally guarantee the deposits and bonds of the Irish-owned banks, the Irish Nationwide Building Society board agreed to pay Fingleton a €1m "performance" bonus.

This was for running a property investment hedge fund disguised as a building society that has since cost the Irish taxpayer €5.4bn. Some performance!

And now, as if to add insult to injury, we have the affair of the €11,500 watch. Talk about taking the Mickey.

This has got to stop and stop now. While former Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick has been rightly pilloried for his role in bankrupting his bank and the Irish exchequer along with it, Fingleton has so far managed to avoid criticism.

However, if anything, the Irish Nationwide was even more irresponsible in its lending than Anglo. While Anglo transferred "only" half of its loans to NAMA, the Nationwide was forced to offload virtually every cent of its €8bn commercial loan book to the state "bad bank".


The €5.4bn which the state has been forced to pump into the Nationwide carcass represents almost 70pc of its total lending to builders and developers. When it comes to bad banking, the Nationwide was in the Olympic gold medal category.

However, unlike FitzPatrick, who was forced to declare himself bankrupt in July 2010, Fingleton has so far managed to get away Scot-free and has not been forced to account for his mismanagement of the Irish Nationwide.

That has got to change. At the Irish Nationwide, Fingleton ran a corporate dictatorship. Normal standards of banking prudence or of corporate governance were ignored with all significant decisions being made by the boss. Staff who objected or otherwise stood up to Fingleton were ruthlessly fired while the Nationwide's toothless board routinely rubber-stamped his decisions.

Now that the cost has become apparent of his riding roughshod over normal standards of good banking, Fingleton must be made to pay.

It is no longer enough for Anglo Irish, which has now absorbed Irish Nationwide, to politely "request" the return of the bonus or the watch. It must pursue their recovery with hob-nailed boots. Anglo must also go after the €27.6m pension top up.

Fingers has shown us the two fingers for long enough. Now it's pay-back time.