Angry outbursts over erosion of share value

THE Bank of Ireland board was accused of “elder abuse” as shareholders’ tempers frayed at its annual general meeting, yesterday.

In one of the more colourful outbursts from the floor, elderly shareholder Mary Clarke told the bank’s chairman, Pat Molloy, that the board was “guilty of elder abuse” over its management of the company in the past few years and for it overseeing the erosion of long-term shareholder value.

Ms Clarke added that Bank of Ireland was “beginning to make AIB look clean” and even called for the re-appointment of former chief executive Michael Soden to head up the business — “a decent and honest man, who can turn the company back around before it’s entirely state-owned”, she said.

Mr Molloy’s response that the current board’s main priority was meeting the best interests of shareholders was met with ridicule from investors in the O’Reilly Hall at UCD.

Ms Clarke’s remarks came after fellow shareholder Gary Keogh threw two eggs at the stage — an action which he previously carried out at AIB’s AGM two years ago. Mr Keogh, who was escorted from the meeting by security, later told RTÉ that his actions had lowered his blood pressure.

One of the bank’s higher profile shareholders, independent TD Shane Ross, said that Bank of Ireland had become “a complete and utter shipwreck” and is “bankrupt”, thanks “partially” to the current board.

Mr Ross then called for each member of the bank’s executive team to stand up and justify their case for re-election to the board; a request which was flatly refused by Mr Molloy.

The chairman also defended the bank’s management team in the face of a clamour for their resignations, saying they constituted a team “as committed and effective as any group of people I’ve seen; with a capacity to manage exceptionally well”.

One of the bank’s retail staff members accused the board of not realising the amount of pressure its workers were under, dealing with frustrated customers.

Meanwhile, another shareholder said the only way the Bank of Ireland board could recover investor respect would be to cap the salaries of its management and stop awarding bonuses.

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