UK judge criticises several top BoI officers

 

A HIGH Court judge in London found that Bank of Ireland’s director of business banking Mark Cunningham was “hiding something” in evidence in a case won by the bank against its former head of business banking in Britain.

Mr Justice Geoffrey Vos ruled this week in favour of the bank against Syed Jaffery, head of business banking in its British bank, and his associate Pritpal Gill, but the judge was critical of the testimony of several bank executives.

The judge said Mr Jaffery had breached his fiduciary duties and accepted bribes by being promised an interest and investing in UK property projects supported by millions of pounds in loans from the bank without its prior consent.

Mr Jaffery, who was fired in May, 2011, had claimed that Mr Cunningham had told him in 2009 to look for another job and that he could further his own business opportunities in the meantime.

He had also claimed he and his associate, Mr Gill, had been victimised because he had “blown the whistle” by claiming that the bank’s UK operations was “a sham bank” as it was being operated from Dublin in breach of the UK financial regulator’s rules.

Mr Cunningham claimed that the first he heard about Mr Jaffery being a whistleblower was in the run-up to a Daily Mail article in May 2011 which outlined Mr Jaffery’s “sham bank” allegations.

Mr Jaffery’s claims, which the bank has rejected, were raised by Lord Ahmed in a letter last year to UK chancellor George Osborne.

In a judgment on Wednesday, the judge said he “did not find Mr Cunningham’s evidence wholly satisfactory” and referred to the former political connections of the bank executive, who was an economic adviser to Fine Gael leader John Bruton in the 1990s.

“He is plainly an astute banker, who was keen to see the case against Mr Jaffery as a ring-fenced allegation of breach of fiduciary duty,” the judge said in his ruling.

“But he did not strike me as a man who would have been so concerned about fiduciary duties, had there not been some other political or reputational angle to the events which occurred. He had, after all, himself been involved in politics. I formed the very distinct view that he was hiding something in giving his evidence.”

The judge also found that David McGowan, who was previously chief executive of the bank’s British division where he is now chief risk officer, had “prepared very carefully” for his evidence.

“He tried to answer questions truthfully, but was able, rather cleverly I think, to make light of the parts of his evidence that he thought might make things difficult for his employers,” he said.

The bank welcomed the judgment, saying it found in its favour in most of its claims but it had no comment on the judge’s comments on executives at the bank.

Mr Jaffery was paid £1 million in salaries and bonuses over three years to 2010.