Prospect of ‘getting’ Fingleton not in sight

Central Bank action and inaction gives former board plenty of ammunition

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 01:40

Shortly before his death in June 2011, the late Brian Lenihan wondered aloud during a phone conversation with a colleague who had worked with him on the banking crisis: “Do you think we will ever get Michael Fingleton?”

Three years on, and the prospect of catching up with the septuagenarian building society boss is still not on the horizon. The next court date for the civil action by KPMG, the liquidator of the society, is in November. At that stage discovery will begin, which will be vast and take up many, many months, bringing matters comfortably into 2015.

Matters are complicated by the fact that KPMG, as auditor of the society, and the Central Bank of Ireland, as so-called watchdog, were both heavily involved with its byzantine affairs for many, many years.

Both bodies knew in intimate detail that something was rotten in the society but did nothing. Is it fair to blame only its board and its executive for the society’s collapse at a cost of €5.4 billion?

Action and inaction by the Central Bank in particular gives the former board and executive of the society plenty of ammunition to mount a credible defence. They have plenty to discover yet.

The bank inquiry will show too, that sure Irish Nationwide was bad, but so was pretty much everybody else. Injudigious lending was not confined to one institution or one banker. The charges being levelled against the old guard at the society, could easily be levelled at other ex-senior bankers working in other banks, who like Fingleton walked away multimillionaires from Ireland’s wreckage.

Irish Nationwide is a huge mess that nobody comes out well off, except the lawyers who are being enriched by endless rigmarole.

The prospects of “getting” Fingleton drifts ever further away.