AIB tells tribunal employee dismissed for accessing accounts


UNAUTHORISED ACCESS to the bank accounts of 13 employees and three customers by a former Allied Irish Banks worker was “absolutely not” acceptable, a senior AIB manager said yesterday.

Former AIB Capital Markets employee Brian Purcell (38), from Dublin, was dismissed in April 2009 after the bank discovered he had accessed the accounts, the Employment Appeals Tribunal heard yesterday.

At an earlier hearing of the case last April, Mr Purcell claimed he was dismissed after he revealed information through a whistleblowers’ charter about irregularities in accounting systems in February 2008.

An annual bonus was not paid to the junior manager in March 2008. Later that month, he accessed the accounts of his colleagues.

The excuse Mr Purcell gave for “invading the privacy” of 16 people’s bank accounts was to see whether they had received the bonus, Patrick Hanratty, counsel for AIB, said yesterday.

The decision not to pay the bonus to Mr Purcell was signed off by the company a week before he made his whistleblowing statement on February 15th, Mr Hanratty said. The decision not to grant the bonus had been made in January, he added.

It must have been “blindingly obvious” to Mr Purcell that he would not receive the bonus as he was the subject of “relentless complaint”, Mr Hanratty said.

Three out of some 100 employees in the section did not receive their bonus that year, Michael Foley, head of corporate operations at AIB Capital Markets, told the tribunal.

Accessing customer accounts for personal purposes was “absolutely not” acceptable , Mr Foley said. Trust in colleagues and employees was “utmost”, and a “very dim view” was taken of inappropriate access, he said.

Computer logs showing Mr Purcell accessed bank accounts on March 25th and 26th, 2008, over nine log-in sessions, were submitted to the tribunal.

The accounts included those of 13 employees and of three customers with the same name as a manager, including the son of one of the managers.

When the bank discovered this breach in April 2008, he was suspended with full pay pending an investigation by the bank. The disciplinary hearings into the matter found in favour of AIB’s decision to dismiss Mr Purcell.

The disciplinary hearings found that additional evidence the bank found of Mr Purcell accessing employee accounts in September 2007 should not have been used in his dismissal.

The tribunal also heard about the sequence of the complaint under the “speak up” or whistleblowing policy. Mr Purcell made his complaint under under the “speak up” policy by letter on February 15th, 2008.

This complaint was made shortly before an e-mail he received at 2.05pm officially informing him of his low performance, Mr Hanratty said.

The case continues today.