Bank queries approval for Fingleton's €11,500 watch


ANGLO IRISH Bank is investigating who approved the purchase of an €11,500 watch as a retirement gift for former Irish Nationwide chief executive Michael Fingleton.

A spokesman for the State-owned bank, which acquired Irish Nationwide last month, said it was looking at whether the board members of the building society at the time agreed to the purchase of the watch in April 2009.

Anglo hand delivered a letter to Mr Fingleton on Tuesday evening seeking the return of the watch to be sold to recover some value for the State which is injecting €5.4 billion into the building society. The bank said yesterday evening it had not received a response from Mr Fingleton.

The chairman of Irish Nationwide at the time of the purchase of the watch was Danny Kitchen and the Government-appointed directors were Rory O’Ferrall and Adrian Kearns. They could not be reached for comment.

They stood down as directors when the building society was merged with Anglo last month.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Nationwide board said she was unable to secure a comment.

Irish Nationwide previously raised queries with Mr Fingleton on his acceptance of the gift.

Anglo is also seeking the return of the controversial €1 million bonus that Mr Fingleton was paid after the Government guarantee in 2008 and which he subsequently committed to repay.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Anglo chairman Alan Dukes said it was an “utterly inappropriate” gesture for Irish Nationwide to have given Mr Fingleton such an expensive gift when the building society was in financial trouble in 2009.

Anglo was “extremely taken aback” when the purchase of the watch came to its attention in the last few days, Mr Dukes told RTÉ’s News at Oneprogramme.

He said the bank didn’t have a legal basis on which to seek the return of the bonus or watch but that the bank was appealing to Mr Fingleton’s better nature.

Mr Dukes said he didn’t know what value the watch might realise but Anglo was seeking to recover something for the State. “Our job in the management and board of Anglo is to recover as much as we possibly can from the wreckage that was left behind,” he said.

The Department of Finance said it was “a disgrace that the building society spent funds in this manner, especially given the cost to the taxpayer from Irish Nationwide Building Society’s failure”.

The department said the chief executive of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the new name for Anglo, was continuing to seek the repayment of the bonus.

“Mr Fingleton should live up to his commitment to return the €1 million payment,” the department said.

“The Government has continued to seek this repayment as in its view it should never have been made to Mr Fingleton.”