Bank chiefs pass fitness and probity review

 

BANK OF Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher and his Irish Life & Permanent counterpart, Kevin Murphy, have come through an investigation of their roles in the lead up to the 2008 financial crash that could have cost them their jobs.

In January, the Central Bank began investigating the individual roles and responsibilities in the lead up to the banking crisis of any directors of lending institutions covered by the State guarantee, who were in situ before the financial crash in 2008.

The investigation was part a new system of scrutinising the “fitness and probity” of bank executives and directors. Anyone who failed to meet the Central Banks’ requirements would have been forced to step down.

All directors who were in place at that time have resigned over the last 12 months except Mr Boucher, Kevin Murphy and Fergus Murphy of AIB, whom the Central Bank cleared two months ago.

The Central Bank yesterday issued a statement saying that it has no reason to suspect the fitness and probity of “any directors who are to continue in their roles into 2012 and beyond, and who were in place prior to 2008”.

The bank did not name the executives, but its statement said that it did not intend to take any further action. The statement means that the two men will be able to continue in their current roles.

The Central Bank began the general fitness and probity review of all directors of the six guaranteed lending institutions last June.

Along with this, it carried out the more detailed investigation of those who worked at the six banks and building societies involved in the period leading up to the crash.

Last January, financial regulator Matthew Elderfield informed Mr Boucher, Kevin Murphy and Fergus Murphy that they were facing investigation.

All three were directors of guaranteed institutions in the years leading up to the crash, although not in their current roles.

Mr Boucher joined Bank of Ireland in 2003 as head of its corporate and commercial banking arm and became a director of the group in 2006. He took over as chief executive in 2009, succeeding Brian Goggin.

Fergus Murphy was chief executive of building society, EBS, which was last year absorbed by AIB, where he is now a senior executive.

He was appointed to his role in EBS at the beginning of 2008, just months before the crash in September of that year.

Kevin Murphy has been on the Irish Life board since 1999 and was chief executive of Irish Life Investment Managers and Irish Life before being appointed to his current role in 2009.

Irish Life Permanent includes both the Irish Life pensions and life assurance business and the Permanent TSB retail bank, which was one of the biggest mortgage lenders during the boom.

In its statement yesterday, the Central Bank said that it will continue to supervise directors whose tenure dates back to before 2008.

It warned that where any information comes to light indicating that they have not met its standards, it will investigate it in a “thorough and comprehensive manner” and take action that may be necessary.

New applicants to sit on any of the guaranteed institution’s boards have to first meet the Central Bank’s fitness and probity standards.