INBS to vote on demutualisation

MEMBERS of the Irish Nationwide Building Society will vote on whether the society should demutualise at its annual general meeting in April.

The Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (IFSRA) has told the board of the Irish Nationwide that a motion, requested by demutualisation campaigners Shane Hogan and Brendan Burgess, must be tabled at the AGM.

The society has tried to block the motion on the grounds that it was not legally valid, but after appealing to the IFSRA, the campaigners have been told that it does comply with the Building Societies Act. However, INBS will table its own motion on demutualisation.

A spokesman for the society said the motion will allow members "an opportunity to debate the issue".

"The Government has indicated that new legislation is being prepared and the board will await the publication of this comprehensive legislation.

"The society's view on demutualisation are well known.

"The society has lobbied for legislation which will allow its ownership to be changed in a controlled manner."

Mr Burgess said his resolution directs the board to advise IFSRA by the end of this year of its intention to convert from a society to a bank, which will trigger substantial windfalls for members. He said that this is the first time in history that members of an Irish building society have succeeded in tabling a resolution to commence demutualisation.

IFSRA directed the board to circulate Mr Hogan's supporting statement to members with the AGM documentation and to circulate statements from Mr Burgess urging members to elect him to the board.

He is targeting the seat held by the society's chairman Michael Walsh, a close associate of Dermot Desmond, who has been on the board for the past 10 years.

The campaigners also said that they want to ensure that any changes to the society's ownership will not see its veteran chief executive, Michael Fingleton, receive a windfall bonus which would be greater than what members will receive.

At last year's marathon AGM, a vote of no confidence in Mr Fingleton was defeated by 80% to 20%.

The Government are expected to publish legislation that paves the way for the two remaining building societies Irish Nationwide and the EBS to float on the stock market or be sold to another institution.

While the EBS favours retaining its mutual status, Irish Nationwide has been under pressure from some members to sell out to another financial institution or float on the stock exchange.

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