INBS inquiry to move to five half days a week
Michael Fingleton’s personal assistant talks though working day
Michael Fingleton, who is representing himself at the inquiry, began a cross-examination of Melody van der Berg and this will continue at a second day of evidence by the former personal assistant on Wednesday.
An inquiry into the actions of four former Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) senior managers in the lead-up to the financial crisis will keep to a schedule of half-day hearings after an application by former managing director Michael Fingleton on medical grounds.
Marian Shanley, who chairs the inquiry’s three-member panel, said it had been intended that the inquiry would resume full-day hearings, but it has now agreed to continue with the current half-day system. These will take place five days a week, up from four, from April 9th.
The inquiry heard on Tuesday from Melody van der Berg, the former personal assistant to Mr Fingleton.
Managers and executives within INBS regularly sent communications intended for Mr Fingleton’s attention via her email address, she told the inquiry. When asked if he had another computer or laptop, she said she was not aware of one.
“My email address was used for both internal and external communications,” Ms van der Berg said. When emails were sent, “it was just a matter of printing it off and giving it to Mr Fingleton”.
Asked how commercial lending manager Tom McMenamin reported to Mr Fingleton, she indicated they had face-to-face meetings. “Mr McMenamin would have met Mr Fingleton over the course of the day.”
Ms van der Berg said she had later worked with Frank Casey, the commercial lending administrator at the building society, who was involved in rating and reviewing the credit risk of commercial loans. She was asked whether certain emails were sent to her to pass on to Mr Fingleton or whether they were sent to her as someone with responsibility for commercial lending administration.
“Mr Fingleton would have received every correspondence that landed on my desk,” she said, indicating that an October 2005 email about a new requirement for monthly credit reviews, sent by Mr Casey to Mr McMenamin and copied to her, was typical of a communication meant for Mr Fingleton.
Around this time, Ms van der Berg also had a role in updating a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of urgent “red-box items” that had been identified in a review by auditors KPMG.
There was a “limited period” in 2005 where Mr Casey was deemed to be reporting to Ms van der Berg, but she stressed that this was only in relation to human-resources matters and not his credit risk function.
“I certainly wasn’t qualified for Frank to report his function into me, and I was told it was only in relation to HR issues.”
Before joining INBS in 2002, she had worked in retail and personal banking in South Africa and had no commercial lending experience.
Mr Fingleton, who is representing himself at the inquiry, began a cross-examination of Ms van der Berg which will continue on Wednesday.
The Central Bank inquiry is seeking to establish if Mr Fingleton and three other former managers of the building society were involved in seven so-called contraventions at INBS between August 2004 and September 2008.
The others are Mr McMenamin, former INBS finance director Stan Purcell and Gary McCollum, who once led the society’s UK lending activities from Belfast.