Fingleton ran Nationwide as ‘personal bank’

THE former chief executive of Irish Nationwide, Michael Fingleton, operated special loan facilities for “unlimited amounts of money” for his friends in the media, government and social circles, an Employment Appeals Tribunal heard yesterday.

Olivia Greene, a former loan supervisor at Irish Nationwide, claimed Mr Fingleton ran the building society like a “personal bank”.

“The loan culture was giving those people whatever they wanted,” said Ms Greene, who said such clients enjoyed more preferential treatment than ordinary customers of Irish Nationwide.

“It was one rule for the general public and a different loan culture for people who were close friends of Mr Fingleton,” said Ms Greene.

She claimed that the controversial banker made all decisions about loans and “made up the rules as he went along”.

“If they were close friends, they had access to unlimited amounts of money,” said Ms Greene, who was giving evidence in an unfair dismissal case taken against Irish Nationwide by her partner, Brendan Beggan.

Ms Greene was about to give evidence about an allegation Mr Fingleton “gifted” two country houses to his friends when she was interrupted by the tribunal’s chairman, Dermot MacCarthy.

The EAT heard that Mr Fingleton has indicated he is willing to attend to give evidence, but that he had to appear in court in eastern Europe yesterday.

Mr MacCarthy acknowledged that Mr Fingleton was a crucial witness in the case being taken by Mr Beggan, who was the former manager of the Irish Nationwide branch in Monaghan.

Mr Beggan claims he was targeted by the building society because his partner, Ms Greene, had exposed its lax loan culture in a separate High Court case.

However, Irish Nationwide maintains that Mr Beggan was fired in July 2009 because he never repaid the mortgage taken out on an investment property at Killileen, Co Monaghan, which he sold for €202,000 in 2004.

Under cross-examination yesterday, Mr Beggan denied that he had misled senior Irish Nationwide executives during a disciplinary hearing in 2009.

Mr Beggan said he had explained to Mr Fingleton in December 2005 that he had suffered severe cost overruns in relation to the property. He further stated that Mr Fingleton instructed him to continue to pay the mortgage on the property out of his monthly salary.

“I trusted Mr Fingleton and he trusted me.” Mr Beggan said he did not accept he was guilty of gross misconduct over his dealings relating to the property.

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