Michael Fingleton seeks to delay Irish Nationwide inquiry

Former CEO claims proceeding with inquiry would be breach of natural justice

The former chief executive of Irish Nationwide Building Society, Michael Fingleton, has claimed it would be a breach of fairness and natural justice for a regulatory inquiry into his stewardship of the lender to proceed.

Mr Fingleton has asked that a Central Bank of Ireland inquiry be delayed until his appeal of a High Court ruling in January, which rejected his attempt to block these hearings, is heard.

This appeal is due to be heard in June 2017 and Mr Fingleton urged the three-member panel leading the Central Bank’s inquiry to postpone their hearings pending the appeal.

He also claims that defamatory claims have been made against him in 21 interviews conducted by the Central Bank of Ireland in its investigation of alleged regulatory breaches at INBS.


In addition, Mr Fingleton, who had no legal representation at the hearing, cited his age (he is nearly 80) and the face that he was under “medical supervision” as reasons why the hearing should be delayed.

This emerged at the first day of public hearings of the Central Bank’s inquiry against five former directors and senior managers of INBS.

Mr Fingleton expressed confidence that his appeal would succeed and noted that he could go all the way to the European courts with the matter.

Mr Fingleton said it was “totally unfair” for him to have to deal with the level of documentation involved in the case - some 110,000 documents have been submitted - without having any assistance.

Mr Fingleton, who led INBS for 38 years, said he was also having to deal with litigation being taken by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, which is suing him for €6 million.

INBS received a €5.4 billion bailout from taxpayers and was nationalised in 2010. It was later transferred into Anglo Irish Bank, which later became IBRC.

Two former executives of Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) did not appear at the first day of public hearings .

The inquiry heard that Tom McMenamin, a former commercial lending manager at INBS, and Gary McCollum, who headed the building society's lending into Britain from a base in Belfast, were both served with notices of the hearing.

Neither responded to the notices nor appeared at the hearing in Blackhall Place in central Dublin on Wednesday.

Inquiry chair, Marian Shanley, a solicitor, said seven so-called "suspected prescribed contraventions" have been levelled at the former executives. The five are accused of failing to ensure that commercial loan applications were processed, and later approved correctly. It is also alleged that INBS failed to obtain proper security for commercial loans, including personal guarantees.

The regulator also suspects that proper valuation reports on assets were not received, and that loan-to-value limits were not adhered to in accordance with sound internal controls.

It is also alleged that the executives failed to ensure that commercial lending was effectively monitored in line with internal policies.

In addition, it is alleged that INBS’s credit committee failed to perform certain functions properly and that it failed to ensure that certain reports relating to commercial lending and credit risk management were provided to the board of directors as required by legislation. It is also alleged that INBS failed to ensure that the establishment of profit-share agreements was the subject of any form of credit risk policy. This charge has been laid against Mr Fingleton, Mr Walsh and Mr Purcell.

The inquiry chair said Mr Fingleton, Mr Walsh and Mr McMenamin deny each charge levelled against them while Mr Purcell and Mr McCollum have made no admissions.

These breaches took place at different periods between August 1st 2004 and September 30th, 2008.

Ms Shanley said the hearing today and possibly on Thursday would deal with procedural matters, including a stay application from Mr Fingleton. On December 13th and 14th, the inquiry would deal with an application for termination from Mr Walsh. Mr Fingleton addressed the inquiry briefly before it broke for lunch.

In relation to how the hearing might proceed, he suggested that the modules dealing with four of the seven suspected regulatory breaches be taken together but said it would be “ridiculous” if each alleged contravention was decided after their separate hearing as they were “all interconnected”.

INBS was nationalised in 2010, having received a taxpayer bailout of €5.4 billion. Its authorisation was revoked in July 2011, around the time it was transferred to Anglo Irish Bank, which later became Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. IBRC was liquidated in February 2013 although the inquiry heard that INBS was not liquidated.

The Central Bank opened its investigation into INBS in 2010. It fined the building society €5 million for regulatory breaches last year but this sum was never collected as INBS had effectively been wound up.

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times