FINGLETON APPEARS AT UNFAIR DISMISSAL HEARING TAKEN BY MONAGHAN BRANCH MANAGER

16 December 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The Employment Appeals Tribunal case being taken by a former Monaghan-based branch manager with the Irish Nationwide Building Society against the now defunct bank’s long-term chief executive Michael Fingleton continued this week — with Mr Fingleton, for the first time, publicly refuting claims that he ran the society like a personal bank.
Former Monaghan GAA star Brendan Beggan (48), of Iterera, Scotstown, who was dismissed from his position in July 2009 for not repaying a loan, has claimed that there was a culture in the bank were staff applying for loans did not have to give their financial details.
There were heated scenes as an irate Mr Beggan confronted his former boss as Mr Fingleton sought to avoid the media while leaving Monday’s hearing. 
Mr Beggan’s partner, Olivia Greene, who sued for constructive dismissal after leaving Irish Nationwide in 2008, had earlier told the tribunal that under Mr Fingleton the bank operated different lending criteria for certain applicants, including government members, close friends and members of the media.
Ms Greene, who settled her case in 2009, was the whistleblower who revealed that the bank had “fast-tracked” loans to Fianna Fail politicians including Monaghan’s Senator Francie O’Brien and former European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy.
Having been branch manager from 1996, Mr Beggan had borrowed €114,000 to buy land at Killylean, Monaghan in 1999 when his salary was the equivalent of €34,000. He borrowed another €63,500 in 2002. In November 2003 he had borrowed €382,000 after being approved for a loan of €360,000.
In evidence already given to the tribunal, he has claimed that he was unfairly dismissed by the society after he sold a property at Killylean for €202,000 without telling the society.
Mr Beggan has also stated that when he became unable to repay his loans in 2006, Mr Fingleton told him to pay the mortgage from salary deductions, and to finish his property development and sell it, using the profits to clear the loans.
 Mr Beggan’s counsel, Mary Paula Guinness, put it to Mr Fingleton that it was he who personally approved the loans to her client.
Mr Fingleton said if he did so it would have been after he was assured by the loans manager that the society’s regulations had been complied with.
He said he relied on the loans manager to examine everything, but Ms Guinness, said this showed that he (Fingleton) was just trying to pass responsibility.
At Monday’s hearing, however, Mr Fingleton denied that he had spoken to Mr Beggan about the loans and said he never socialised with him.
He had commissioned an investigation when he became aware in a 2007 audit of Mr Beggan’s loan exposure of up to €1.5 million. He had been “amazed” at this, Mr Fingleton said.
After being suspended in January 2009, Mr Beggan was dismissed in July of that year. He said his relationship with Mr Fingleton became “frosty” when his partner, Ms Green, gave evidence against the society in the High Court.
Mr Fingleton made a point of telling the tribunal on Monday that he wanted to refute in the strongest possible terms the claims that he ran the society as a “personal bank”. That was slander and absolutely untrue. The suggestion that he gave some people loans that they would not have to pay back was “a totally outrageous accusation and totally untrue.”

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