A couple who lost their life savings when bank shares collapsed has won them all back again in a successful appeal to the Financial Services Ombudsman, the High Court has heard.
But semi-retired veterinary surgeon Patrick Noel Buckley (aged 69) and his wife, Helen, may yet face a Supreme Court battle to hang on to their €202,000 nestegg, however.
Their barrister Seamas O’Tuathail, S.C. said today that it could take another three years.
High Court President, Mr Justice Nicolas Kearns, in July, threw out an appeal by Allied Irish Bank against the Ombudsman’s decision directing AIB to pay back the Buckleys the €202,000 they invested in bank shares on AIB’s advice.
Today President Kearns, in the High Court, refused AIB leave to appeal his ruling to the Supreme Court. The bank is now considering asking the Supreme Court itself to rule it should hear an appeal of Judge Kearns’s refusal on a point of law.
Financial Services Ombudsman Joe Meade last year heard that Mr Buckley, of Station Road, Carrigaline, Co Cork, had sold his main veterinary practice for “the greater part” of €200,000.
He and his wife wanted to invest it to help pay their son Patrick’s annual fees and expenses of €40,000 at Veterinary College in Edinburgh and had met with officials of AIB in its South Mall, Cork, branch in August 2008 to discuss interest rates.
They claimed that an AIB consultant had advised them to invest their money in bank shares and, having been told that then Bank of Ireland Chief Executive Brian Goggins had just bought bank shares worth €2m, they invested €101,000 in AIB shares and €101,000 in Bank of Ireland shares.
Within months they had collapsed to less than 20% of their value. An appeal was made to the Ombudsman who found negligence on the part of the bank and directed AIB pay them back their losses.
This was appealed by the bank to the High Court and dismissed by Judge Kearns whose decision may yet go before the Supreme. If it is it could take three years to come to hearing.
The court heard that the bank’s main defence was that Mr Buckley was an experienced investor and that both he and his wife had signed a Share Dealing Application Form stating they had “not required and have not received any advice in respect of these transactions and acknowledge that investments can fall as well as rise.”
The Buckleys claimed they had received specific advice from AIB and that the Application Form statement had not been drawn to their attention.
In his judgment upholding the Ombudsman’s ruling, Judge Kearns said it was a shame and a great pity so many appeals of the Financial Services Ombudsman were now coming to the High Court.
The legislation had devised a scheme for the informal, speedy and efficient disposal of disputes that arose when dealings between consumers and banks went awry.