Thursday 23 November 2017

No questions about €1m bonus or watch for ex-boss Fingleton

Michael Fingleton arrives at the Banking Inquiry in Dublin
Michael Fingleton arrives at the Banking Inquiry in Dublin

Former Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton neatly avoided questions about an expensive retirement watch and a €1m bonus at the Banking Inquiry.

Both questions were ruled out by the Inquiry's legal advisers yesterday.

When we did hear from the man with the €27.6m pension pot - whose building society required a €5.4bn bailout by the Irish taxpayer - he described how he felt misrepresented in the media and how 80pc of what was written about him by certain individuals was "wrong".

Another 10pc could be disputed and 10pc was correct but he had not "cogitated" which things were correct.

Asked by Deputy Michael McGrath if he felt wronged, Mr Fingleton responded: "I certainly, certainly do."

READ MORE: Dan White: 'Sorry' still the hardest word for €27m man Michael Fingleton

He also told the Inquiry that he regretted "very much, I have and I am continuing to pay the price, personally" of the financial collapse.

"I regret it for the society's employees, shareholders and borrowers who all became casualties of the crisis and I regret it for the taxpayer and the State who had to fund the deficit," he said.

Mr Fingleton said it was an absolute shock to him that Irish Nationwide had succumbed to a cataclysmic crisis.


He did not, however, regret any decision he took at the Building Society in his 38 years at the helm, nor did he accept there were "poor lending practices".

He conceded to Deputy Pearse Doherty, however, that he regretted the loan book had become too large.

He qualified this by saying that, at the time, that was a "normal commercial decision based on demographics".

The former Building Society boss denied there was any bonus culture at Nationwide but with hindsight, he told Deputy Kieran O'Donnell, the bonuses for 2006/7 were not warranted.

Asked about presiding over a Society that had the single biggest bank failure in the history of the Irish state, he insisted this was only the case if the discounts applied by NAMA were accepted.

He did not accept them and would provide evidence at a future date.

He also denied that Irish Nationwide was his personal fiefdom and said that while he was seen as the face of the Society and he did promote himself, this was only because they could not afford to buy advertising at the time.

In relation to his pension pot, he explained he had taken over the management of that fund in the early 1990s when he became concerned that it was not being managed well enough.

Meanwhile, former non-executive chairman of Irish Nationwide, Michael Walsh, launched a scathing attack on the Central Bank and Regulatory Authorities.

He told the Banking Inquiry that despite having serious misgivings about the stability and sustainability of the Irish Banking system by 2006, they had failed to bring these to the attention of the institutions they were tasked with overseeing.

"To this day I cannot understand why the Authorities did not intervene in the markets before the financial crisis broke months later," he said.

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