Lenihan appoints Finnish expert to head banking inquiry

FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan has announced the appointment of a Finnish expert to head the inquiry into the banking sector.

Peter Nyberg, formerly a senior official at the Finnish ministry of finance, will lead the Commission of Investigation into the banks.

The Dáil cleared the way yesterday for the inquiry when approving an order to establish the commission.

Mr Lenihan told the Dáil that Mr Nyberg would bring “a wealth of experience to the position based on his career in the Finnish finance ministry and elsewhere”.

The commission will examine what went wrong in the lead-up to the banking crisis as well as actions by the banks themselves in the wake of the Government guarantee scheme being announced.

Actions of the banks’ external auditors, the Financial Regulator and the Central Bank will also be examined.

The starting point will be January 1, 2003, and the cut-off point will be January 15, 2009, the date on which Anglo Irish Bank was nationalised.

But while the conduct of the banks, auditors and regulators will be examined, decisions taken by the Government will be off-limits to the inquiry.

The Government has repeatedly argued that any decisions it took in relation to the bank bailout were extensively debated in the Dáil and, therefore, do not require investigation.

“It is the Government’s view... that certain decisions and processes which are fundamentally political in nature are not amenable to an investigation whose purpose is to make findings of fact,” Mr Lenihan said. “The Government will not be changing its position on that point. There are no good reasons for it to do so.”

He stressed, however, that his department would feature in “significant ways” in the commission’s work. This is because the commission will examine whether any directions given by the department to the Financial Regulator were in any way relevant to the regulator’s supervisory failures.

The commission of investigation will form just one of three elements of the overall probe of the banking crisis.

An Oireachtas committee will examine macro-economic issues relevant to the banking crisis.

Finally, Mr Lenihan is commissioning an independent review of his own department’s performance.

While the minister said Government decisions would remain off-limits, he said certain documentation from his department relating to the bank guarantee would be released into the public domain.

In addition, he said he was “open to persuasion” that documents pertaining to the period up to January 15, 2009, be made public.

“I am examining this with a view to making a decision on it in a short period,” he said.


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