Former chief executive of the Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS), Michael Fingleton, has been granted the opportunity to make a case against a civil claim accusing him of negligent mismanagement of the failed lender. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a further appeal from Fingleton, 85, who claims that his ill-health, resulting from a stroke he suffered four years ago, prevents him from adequately defending himself.
The civil trial, originally scheduled for next March, will likely be postponed due to the timeline involved in the Supreme Court hearing and decision, irrespective of the outcome of Fingleton’s appeal. The previous decisions by the High Court and the Court of Appeal to proceed with the case initiated by the liquidators of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) were not overturned. The INBS was taken over by the IBRC after collapsing.
The allegations against Fingleton include claims that, as managing director and chief executive, he exerted excessive control over the building society’s operations and disregarded lending regulations. Initially set at €6 billion, the claim has been significantly reduced to approximately €290 million, focusing on five series of loans issued between 2006 and 2009. Fingleton vehemently denies these allegations.
Fingleton’s son, Michael Fingleton Jr., stated that his father, once worth €75 million in 2006, now possesses just €25,000 across two personal bank accounts, with outstanding judgment debts exceeding €10.7 million as of last year.
The Supreme Court decided to consider Fingleton’s appeal due to the broader public implications it raises. Specifically, the Court will examine whether it is appropriate to dismiss proceedings before trial when a defendant is unable, due to ill-health, to mount a defense. Factors to be considered include the potential damage to the defendant’s reputation, any culpable delay on the plaintiff’s part, and the availability of evidence to powers of attorney defending on behalf of an incapacitated defendant.
Michael Fingleton, who held various leadership positions at INBS from 1971 to 2009, including managing director, denies all the accusations made against him.