Action unlikely over AIB share trading

IT seems highly unlikely that officials from either AIB or Goodbody Stockbrokers will face any sanctions over the use of offshore funds to trade shares in the bank in the early part of this decade, as both the Financial Regulator and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) lack the power to impose any punishment.

The practice of using two funds – one situated in the Isle of Man and the other in the Caribbean – were detailed by former AIB internal auditor Eugene McErlean to a Dáil Committee in March and partially defended by AIB’s outgoing chief executive, Eugene Sheehy, at a sitting of the same committee last Thursday.

According to AIB, the share dealing which took place in 2001 did not profit either AIB or Goodbody Stockbrokers (a subsidiary of the bank) but was carried out in order for Goodbody not to lose out on business prior to legislation barring it from trading in AIB shares being changed in August of 2001.

However, any investigation into whether or not the issue was illegal – members of the joint Oireachtas Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs claimed the dealings were in breach of the Companies Act – seemingly cannot be carried out.

According to the Financial Regulator, it cannot impose sanctions on cases which took place before it received relevant investigative powers in 2004.

While the ODCE can back-date probes – all investigations were simply transferred to it when it was established in 2001, from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment – it is unlikely that a case like this would qualify.

A spokesperson for the office reiterated the ODCE does not comment on current investigations, but added that while cases of company law breaches come under its remit, perceived cases of insider trading do not and fall within the remit of the Financial Regulator.

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