Michael Fingleton attacks bank claims as 'slander'

Monday 12 December 2011 22.12
Michael Fingleton denied he ran Irish Nationwide as a 'personal bank'
Michael Fingleton denied he ran Irish Nationwide as a 'personal bank'

Former Irish Nationwide chief executive Michael Fingleton has rejected claims that he ran the building society as a personal bank as "an absolute slander".

Speaking after being called as a witness in a case being taken by former Nationwide branch manager Brendan Beggan at the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Mr Fingleton replied "absolutely not" when it was put to him that a number of witnesses at the hearing had made this claim.

He told the hearing: "I wish to refute in the strongest possible terms claims I ran it as a personal bank, that is an absolute slander and totally untrue.

He said: "I ran the society in the best possible manner".

Speaking after giving evidence, he addressed the tribunal saying claims he had given loans to certain people that were not to be paid back were "outrageous".

At a previous sitting Olivia Greene, the partner of Mr Beggan, said Mr Fingleton ran Nationwide as a "personal bank" with different lending criteria for members of the government, media and close friends. She is also a former employee.

Mr Fingleton told the hearing that any lending was based on certain criteria being met, as set out by the lending manager, who would have "assured me all requirements and ability to repay had been complied with".

Mr Beggan, a former Monaghan branch manager, was dismissed in 2009 for the alleged selling of property but not notifying the society about the sale or using the funds to repay a mortgage on the land.

The hearing was told today of €1.5m in loans being approved for Mr Beggan.

Mr Fingleton said he had no personal knowledge of the lending. However, counsel for Mr Beggan, Mary Paula McGuinness, produced lending documentation claiming to show he had approved the lending.

The tribunal also heard Mr Beggan had sold property in Co Monaghan, built with mortgage loans. These were not paid back as the houses sold. Asked if he was aware of this, Mr Fingleton said no.

When Mr Fingleton was asked if he had told Mr Beggan to simply keep paying the loans through salary, he said "no that never happened".

Asked why Mr Beggan was able to borrow multiples of his salary, he said "it was a matter for the loans manager, it was certainly nothing to do with me".

He added "maybe a certain amount of leeway" was given to Mr Beggan as a manager. Asked was leeway given to others, Mr Fingleton said no.

He said in 2007 the loans to Mr Beggan came to light during an internal review at the bank. Mr Fingleton said he was "amazed at the extent of the loans granted and the level of exposure the society had to Mr Beggan".

In response to claims Mr Beggan may have had special access to Mr Fingleton, he said "he had no more access to me than any other manager. I always maintained an open door policy".

Mr Fingleton added that that policy was "not just for managers, but all members of staff had access to me".

Asked "were loans approved at your discretion", he said "absolutely not". He added: "If discretions were to be considered, it may have been referred to me".