Former INBS director cannot recall series of key events, inquiry hears

John Stanley Purcell tells inquiry he did not attend credit committee meetings

John Stanley Purcell’s evidence to the inquiry mainly considered technical issues surrounding his interaction with the credit committee in his role as the finance director of INBS.  Photograph: Alan Betson

John Stanley Purcell’s evidence to the inquiry mainly considered technical issues surrounding his interaction with the credit committee in his role as the finance director of INBS. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Former Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) director John Stanley Purcell cannot recollect a series of key events at the institution in the run-up to the financial crash, an inquiry has heard.

Mr Purcell, who started his evidence on Monday and will continue as a witness until Thursday, could not recall specific details surrounding the creation of the society’s credit committee, or when it was set up, or whether it effectively challenged the approval of loans.

“I can’t say, because I didn’t attend the meetings . . . The credit committee, under its terms of reference, was meant to carry out certain duties and part of that would be to assess the loans critically,” he told the inquiry.

Under questioning from Niamh Hyland SC, who is assisting the inquiry, Mr Purcell challenged the assertion from a previous witness that he had a role in identifying people to sit on the credit committee. He said the board established the credit committee.

Mr Purcell was also questioned about the suggested dominance of former INBS chief executive Michael Fingleton. Asked whether he agreed with the analysis that he was a dominant figure in the society, Mr Purcell said: “He was the managing director. He was a strong managing director. The word ‘dominance’ seems to have not good connotations. It depends on the circumstances and how the role is carried out.”

Technical issues

Mr Purcell’s evidence mainly considered technical issues surrounding his interaction with the credit committee in his role as the finance director of INBS.

The inquiry, which was established on foot of a Central Bank decision in 2015 – public hearings began last December – is seeking to find out if Mr Fingleton and three other former managers were involved in seven so-called contraventions at the building society between August 2004 and September 2008.

The first module of the inquiry is looking at whether the society’s credit committee failed to adhere to internal policies by not reviewing cases of large commercial loan arrears, exposure to specific sectors or customers, or issues raised by internal audit, outside advisers or regulators.

Mr Fingleton is one of four individuals subject of the inquiry. The others are Mr Purcell, one-time commercial lending manager Tom McMenamin and Gary McCollum, who once led the society’s UK lending activities from Belfast. The collapse of the society cost the taxpayer €5.4 billion.