AIB whistle-blower takes unfair dismissal case

AN AIB whistle-blower was sacked shortly after he had highlighted irregularities in the bank’s internal accounting system, an Employment Appeals Tribunal heard yesterday.

Former AIB employee Brian Purcell, who worked in the bank’s capital markets division, is taking an unfair dismissal case against AIB.

Mr Purcell, 38, a father -of-two from Skerries, Co Dublin, claims the bank fired him at the first opportunity after he had raised concerns about AIB’s accounting procedures in February 2008 through a confidential reporting mechanism.

However, AIB claims Mr Purcell was dismissed after he had admitted to inappropriately accessing the bank accounts of nine colleagues the following month.

Lawyers for Mr Purcell told the tribunal that he became “a marked man” after he alerted the bank to “well-founded” deficiencies in its internal accounting system which AIB managers had themselves acknowledged were “confusing and inappropriate”.

Barrister Michael Forde SC for Mr Purcell said there was no evidence of any actual wrongdoing but the system could have been exploited by unscrupulous people to commit fraud.

Mr Purcell used AIB’s internal and confidential whistle-blowing facility called Speak Up in February 2008 to raise the issue.

However, Dr Forde said Mr Purcell’s identity as the person reporting the problem was revealed within days of AIB management being alerted to the issue.

He also expressed concern that the person appointed to investigate Mr Purcell’s concerns was a close personal friend of the subject of the complaint.

Dr Forde said his client accepted he was wrong to access the bank accounts of other AIB staff in March 2008 but that such action did not warrant dismissal.

He explained that Mr Purcell wanted to check if his colleagues had received a bonus which he had been denied, despite receiving one in each of the previous two years.

He also complained that AIB’s internal dismissal process refused to deal with Mr Purcell’s claims that his sacking was linked to his whistle-blowing role.

Dr Forde accused AIB of double standards, pointing out that Mr Purcell was sacked for a breach of trust, yet nobody had even faced a disciplinary hearing for breaching his client’s confidentiality as whistle-blower.

Lawyers for AIB claimed the bank’s decision to fire Mr Purcell was fair and reasonable given the flagrant breach of trust committed.

Mairéad McKenna BL for AIB said Mr Purcell had not been paid a bonus in 2008 because there had been serious concerns about his performance at the time.

The hearing was adjourned until August 31.


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