Michael Fingleton must pay costs of failed High Court challenge

Former Irish Nationwide chief had argued his case was brought in the public interest

Michael Fingleton challenged the Central Bank’s decision to subject him to an inquiry. Photograph:  Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Michael Fingleton challenged the Central Bank’s decision to subject him to an inquiry. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Former Irish Nationwide Building Society chief executive Michael Fingleton must pay the costs of his failed legal bid to prevent the Central Bank conducting an inquiry into alleged regulatory breaches at the Society, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan rejected arguments on behalf of Mr Fingleton that the case was brought in the public interest in that it raised important points concerning the Central Bank’s powers of inquiry which had not previously been determined.

Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for the Central Bank, disputed any public interest was involved.

No public interest

In his ruling, the judge said he could see no overriding public interest such as would entitle the court not to award costs to the bank, the sucessful party in the case,  against Mr Fingleton.

The case was solely about Mr Fingleton’s private interest in seeking to prevent the inquiry, thejudge said.

While the action may have addressed isses concerning the meaning of provisions of the Central Bank Act 1942, that was not the same as saying there was a public interest involved, he added.

Mr Fingleton, along with several other former officials of INBS, are the subject of a Central Bank inquiry, under Part III C of the 1942 Central Bank Act, due to commence hearings next month.

He challenged the Central Bank’s decision to subject him to an inquiry claiming it was unfair and unreasonable.

Prescribed contraventions

The Central Bank is inquiring into allegations that certain prescribed contraventions were committed by both INBS, and certain persons concerned with its management, between August 2004 and September 2008.

Mr Justice Noonan earlier this month dismissed Mr Fingleton’s action, clearing the way for the inquiry to proceed. He found Mr Mr Fingleton had failed to show any inherent unfairness in the inquiry process.

The inquiry, in the event of any finding of wrongdoing, has power to impose a fine on an individual of up to €500,000.

INBS was nationalised and merged with the former Anglo Irish Bank into IBRC in 2011. The Central Bank estimates the INBS collapse has cost the tax payer some €5 billion but that figure is disputed by Mr Fingleton.

John Stanley Purcell, a former director of INBS, is also challenging the inquiry in separate proceedings yet to be heard.