Nationwide had admitted its oversight but refused to take responsibility for it. It spent the next ten years chasing the Malones for €100,000 on their property, which multiplied in value as the boom took off. Eventually the case went to the Supreme Court, which found in favour of Eileen Malone. It ruled that the society had been ‘manifestly negligent’ in its treatment of her. At least had been spent by the society in pursuing its fruitless action against the widow as she struggled to bring up her family.
Burgess and Hogan then reminded members of the jailing of Joseph Nulty as further evidence that Fingleton was unsuitable. It also raised the question of the society’s appearance at the Flood Tribunal and the claim by Patrick Hanratty sc, for the Tribunal, that Fingleton was ‘cavalier in the extreme,’ in his attitude to it. Their statement said that Fingleton was due to retire in January 2004 and, having by now driven out Maurice Harte, had no potential successor.
The two men dragged up other dirt from the society’s murky depths. In August 1999 Judge Peter Kelly had threatened to jail Fingleton and sequester the society’s assets for contempt of court in a case involving the alleged wrongful dismissal of the manager Of the society’s Cavan branch, Seän Martin. Martin had obtained an order preventing his dismissal from Judge Fidelma Macken on 8 March until his case could be heard. The society sacked him anyway on 18 June, claiming he had carried out alternative employment as an auctioneer and in any event, it claimed, was under-achieving as a manager.
Martin had appealed against his dismissal before even being given a chance to argue his case in court before Judge Kelly, who said he was prepared to jail Fingleton for doing so. A stay had been put on his order when counsel for the society gave an unequivocal undertaking that Martin could continue in his job. The society claimed that the judge had only made an order for them not to sack Martin; this, it believed, did not prevent them carrying out further internal disciplinary procedures. When Martin failed to co-operate with these inquiries, it said, it felt entitled to
Judge Peter Kelly dismissed this explanation. ‘If the Irish Nationwide Building Society had felt Mr Martin was abusing the order of making life impossible for them, then their course was clear. They could have come back to court at any time and sought to have the order dissolved or varied.’ The society, he concluded, had taken the law into its own hands by dismissing Martin and humiliating him by taking his office keys, credit card and society car from him without trial. The case had been highly embarrassing for Fingleton and had been quietly and expensively settled over the summer months, while the courts were closed.
Hogan and Burgess also made reference, though not explicitly, to an even worse episode in Fingleton’s career. ‘The society has also made substantial settlements under confidentiality agreements with ex-employees. These awards reduce the profits of the society and ultimately reduce the value of the windfall.’
This was a reference to an article published in the Sunday Tribune on 3 November 2002. It stated that the society had paid €200,000 in a confidential settlement with an employee called Fiona Couse. She had worked her way up from being a mortgage administration manager in the 1990s to becoming head of compliance. She had worked closely with Fingleton for twenty years before suddenly leaving at the beginning of 2002. She had taken her case to the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations. A public hearing was due on 16 October, but Fingleton
decided to settle the case, which the Sunday Tribune said at the time could have been 'highly embarrassing for the society. It is understood that Couse brought her case against Irish Nationwide after her close working relationship with the chief executive deteriorated and negotiations failed to reach a conclusion satisfactory to both parties. ’ In truth, Fingleton was more than close to Couse. They had enjoyed a love affair. It was only on I March 2011 that this became public in the Irish Mail on Sunday under the headline 'Fingleton’s mistress got payout. ’
Couse, a one-time captain of the Irish women’s hockey team, was confronted at her home by the paper. She said the pay-out happened only a ‘significant period of time’ after the affair ended. ‘It wasn’t linked to it at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with it. It was a sexual it was a harassment and bullying action that was taken under the guise of the Director of Equality Investigations. And that’s what that settlement was in relation to. It was in relation to nothing else.’
Source: Fingers: The man who bought down Irish Nationwide and cost us 5.4 billion.