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Bid to halt case against Fingleton is rejected
Michael Fingleton (pictured in 2017) Pic: RollingNews

10 May 2023 / courts Print

Bid to halt case against Fingleton is rejected

The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal against a High Court decision to allow proceedings against the former chief executive of Irish National Building Society (INBS) Michael Fingleton (pictured) to go ahead.

The case is being taken by the special liquidators of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), which had taken over the assets and liabilities of INBS in 2011 after its collapse.

The liquidators are seeking damages of more than €6 billion from Fingleton for alleged negligence and breach of his duties as a director of INBS.

The former INBS chief executive suffered a major stroke in 2019 that severely impacted him — including his cognitive abilities — and his health has deteriorated further since.

'Extraordinary mental task'

The appeal against the High Court ruling was taken by his legally appointed attorneys Eileen Fingleton (wife) and Michael Fingleton Jr (son), who argued that the allegations against Fingleton were "extremely detailed and broad in nature", and that it would be " an extraordinary mental task" for any individual to defend them.

Fingleton will be unable to give evidence on his own behalf or to instruct his lawyers either in advance of or during the trial.

The fact this was "a significant litigation disadvantage" was accepted by the trial judge, but the Court of Appeal said that this was "not determinative", pointing out that the Oireachtas had provided for the continuation of actions against a deceased defendant.

Expert testimony

The court ruled that it had not been established that there was either a real or serious risk of an unfair trial, or an unfair result.

Nor had it been established, according to the judges, that there was a "clear, patent injustice in asking him to defend the proceedings, or that to do so would place upon him an inexcusable and unfair burden".

The court said that many crucial matters in the proceedings were "objectively provable" without the need for the appellant's testimony, and questions about Fingleton's authorization of certain loans would "largely turn on expert testimony".

Central Bank probe

The court referred to an earlier Central Bank decision to halt its inquiry into Fingleton's conduct, saying it was not relevant to its ruling, as Fingleton was representing himself, and became unwell and incapable of conducting his defence.

The judges added that the defendants in the proceedings would be Fingleton's attorneys, who would conduct the defence on his behalf.

The court also rejected an argument that a disparity in resources was a basis for staying the proceedings, stating that this would be "an unsound principle to uphold".

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