Michael Fingleton influenced INBS credit committee, inquiry hears

Committee reviewed applications for large loans and borrowers in arrears

Michael Fingleton is representing himself at the Irish Nationwide inquiry.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Michael Fingleton is representing himself at the Irish Nationwide inquiry. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Former Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) chief executive Michael Fingleton had influence over a key committee at the bank that was meant to guard against taking on risky loans.

INBS’s former head of commercial lending Tom McMenamin told a Central Bank investigation into alleged breaches of financial law at the lender that members of a committee that reviewed loan applications were conscious of Mr Fingleton’s opinion of individual borrowers.

Responding to questions from Mr Fingleton himself, Mr McMenamin said: “It would be my view that you would have been very quick to say ’we won’t touch that guy’ or ’he’s OK, he’ll be grand’, there was a bit of influence there.”

Mr McMenamin has been giving evidence about the bank’s credit committee, a safeguard that amongst other things was meant to independently review applications for large loans and consider how deal with big borrowers who had fallen behind with repayments.

Asked by the inquiry’s chair Marian Shanley, if he would have ever have gone against Mr Fingleton when dealing with a loan application, Mr McMenamin replied “I wouldn’t have thought so”.

Open discussion

Mr Fingleton pointed out that both he and Mr McMenamin would each have had their own opinions on different commercial loans and would have discussed them openly.

Mr Fingleton is representing himself at the hearings. The inquiry is scrutinising his stewardship of the bank during the boom, along with Mr McMenamin, INBS’s one-time finance director, John Stanley and the former head of its Belfast office, Gary McCollum.

Earlier this week, the inquiry heard that the committee approved hundreds of millions of euro loans in breach of its own rules during the property boom that ended a decade ago.

At the hearing yesterday, Mr McMenamin he had always tried to do his job to best of his ability.

“I never tried to hide anything,” he said. “I know I had my shortcomings, I probably did things incorrectly, did not implement various instructions to the letter of the law, and probably not at all.”

The State took over INBS in its efforts to save the financial system in 2009. The lender later became part of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, which has since been wound up.