Category Archives: Austerity

The Beneficial Lies – Who Did They Really Benefit? #banks #bankers #HBOS #Lloyds

I should be used to offensive or thoughtless language from bankers and bonkers behaviour by their PR teams but I was genuinely shocked this morning at various articles in the press today.

Top of the list are the two articles in the Times where the CEO of Lloyds Banking Group, Antonio Horta-Osorio (AH-O) gives chapter and verse on an incredibly stressful period of his life as Lloyds boss. Knowing a lot about stress and how debilitating it is, I fully understand that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your personal circumstances are – inside your own bubble, you are still having a crisis.

However, the subject of people getting stressed because of banks is such a sensitive one, given how many thousands of bank clients are stressed to the point of being suicidal, I wonder why on earth the PR department of Lloyds Banking Group would make the Banks CEO such an easy and obvious target for outrage?

I imagine being the CEO of a major Bank is a very stressful job – which is why they are paid mega bucks. But there are huge differences between being stressed because of a well-paid job which, if you really can’t cope, you can resign from and being stressed because a Bank has destroyed your life, your business, your future, your reputation and, in some cases, your sanity – and you can’t resign from this situation – or check in to the Priory – or retire and live on a pension which, unfortunately for you, you no longer have because and unlike Mr AH-O, you’ve been asset stripped of everything.

There is no comparison between the stress Mr AH-O has suffered and the stress so many SME owners (and their family, staff and shareholders) have suffered. Therefore, while I would never suggest the stress Mr AH-O suffered was of no consequence or that mental illness isn’t a very serious issue that should be given a better platform, his two articles are unbelievably insensitive and offensive to the many who are still in a very dark place through no fault of their own and, in some cases, because of Lloyds Banking Group.

In the same way I have always been very grateful to many journalists who have helped expose the Reading fraud (Ian Fraser, Tom Harper, Andy Verity, James Hurley, Siobhan Kennedy and many others), I am also very grateful to Jonathan Ford, City Editor of the FT for his excellent article about HBOS Reading which has coincided with the Mr AH-O articles in the Times. The online article came out on Thursday and the six-page hard copy article came out in the FT today (7th). Comparing the two articles, there’s a very stark example of the inequality the Country is suffering. Suffering for Mr AH-O meant he was put off his tennis game, he didn’t enjoy his family holiday in Indonesia and he suffered a bad bought of insomnia. Speaking as a victim of HBOS Reading, I can confirm my own version of stress was years of insomnia, no holidays and 22 horrendously stressful eviction hearings. I did consider suicide but only in a wishful thinking sort of way as I had two teenage daughters to think of and a very strong husband who has pulled us all through these terrible years.

I realise none of what I (or many others) went through alters how Mr AH-O was feeling back in 2011 and I genuinely hope he is fully recovered. All the same, if I was him I would sack his PR team because they made him a sitting duck and will, I think, cause him more stress.

I would imagine one of the most stressful things about Mr AH-O’s job is knowing the truth about the Bank and managing that truth. The other disturbing articles I’ve read today – or indeed in the last few days – are about how much truth has been buried for the benefit of the public. An article in The Times yesterday reported how the Bank of England was economical with the truth during the financial crisis. Andy Haldane, the BoE chief economist at the time said:

“It is not always and everywhere the case that greater openness and transparency is a good thing. And that’s certainly true in my world.

“Had we been fully open and fully transparent about what was going on during the financial crisis, it would, let me tell you, have been a lot, lot worse. That would have been [like] shouting ‘fire’ in the theatre.

Mr Haldane is right about one thing, the crisis in 2008 was considerably worse than the public was allowed to know. I’m sure everyone at the BoE was trying to juggle so many flaming swords, they all wished they could book into the Priory. Trouble is, years later and as the real truth comes out, many people are wondering if the lies told (and that’s what they were) were for the benefit of the Country or told in order to cover up the fact the whole Country had been collectively mugged by the Banks? The fire in Mr Haldane’s theatre could and probably was full of bankers and what the BoE did was bring in the Fire Brigade – but was it for the public benefit? If it was, how comes the whole Country has been crippled by austerity so the NHS is on its knees, the police can’t even afford to investigate the epidemic of financial crime our banks still persist in using as every day conduct, young people can’t afford University fees or housing and hundreds of families are relying on food banks? Is that how we benefited?

In the same way Lloyds Banking Group has been economical with the truth of what it knew about HBOS Reading, Ross McEwan has been economical with the truth about RBS GRG division, the BoE, FSA, FCA, FRC, PRA have been economical with the truth about  almost everything to do with the Banks and their auditors – I fail to see how this has been beneficial to the Country? Maybe it would have been had the BoE and the regulator used the financial crash as a lesson learned and made sure banks really did clean up their acts? But they didn’t so we can expect a new financial melt down any time from now.

All we have years later is a lot of stressed people – bankers, bank customers, bank victims – and a struggling economy. So who has benefited from all these beneficial lies? And how much longer will the lies or spin of the truth continue? Clearly it’s in full flow today and my guess is Antonio Horta-Osorio is still stressed and, needless to say, so am I as too are so many victims of HBOS Reading, RBS/GRG, Lloyds BSU and other banks BSUs. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if stress levels in this country are at an all time high.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I object to Eric Daniels walking away from chaos with £5M – it’s not banker bashing, it’s logic.

I wrote the blog below in September 2011. Today’s news that Eric Daniels now feels he can sue Lloyds Banking Group for lost bonuses has not improved my view of him. Mr Daniels was a spectacularly unsuccessful bank CEO. A friend of mine said the HBOS /Lloyds bankers were paid a fortune to “fail with vigour.” My friend was right and Mr Daniels was a classic example. The fact he believes he is entitled to even more money is offensive to the Bank’s shareholders, it;s customers, to the thousands of staff who lost their jobs, to the victims of #HBOS Reading who Eric not only ignored but in some cases persecuted, and to the whole Country. Shame on you Mr Daniels. 22/08/17

Original blog of 26/09/2011

Some may say my various tweets on Saturday (24th September) about Eric Daniels were a bit harsh or that I have been indulging in what has reportedly become a common pastime in the UK, banker bashing. But I have good reason to feel Mr Daniels should not be allowed to cock this last snoop at the British taxpayer or at me.

I do remember 2009, when Eric Daniels became head of HBOS as well as Lloyds. I remember thinking that finally, the victims of HBOS Reading would get a fair hearing and a resolution because obviously, the management of Lloyds would want to clear up such an unwholesome mess. Not so.

I wrote to Mr Daniels on several occasions and those people who replied on his behalf (he never replied personally), simply said that, as far as Mr Daniels was concerned, the issue of HBOS Reading had been dealt with, there was no fraud and the Bank did not intend to correspond further. They are still corresponding now, over two years later and our last letter came from Harry Baines, General Counsel for HBOS and now Lloyds Banking Group, in July 2011. His variation on a theme was the matter has been well ‘ventilated’ and that’s the end of it.

The serious question this behaviour poses is not just as to why Mr Daniels, or anyone else for that matter, would be happy to see business banking clients left in such a sorry state having been defrauded by bank employees but rather; why would the CEO of a bank ignore evidence of criminality and allow the situation to progress to a full scale police investigation which could only be detrimental to the bank and its shareholders?

I’m fully aware that banks get hundreds if not thousands of complaints on a daily basis and they  very often deal with them using the ‘delay, deny, dilute’ tactic. But, I truly believe in this instance it was absolute madness and totally negligent to repeatedly ignore complaints about HBOS Reading and even when:

  1. Several MPs were asking for a resolution on behalf of Constituents.
  2. The HBOS Reading scandal was the subject of a File on 4 broadcast.
  3. MPs had a Debate at Westminster on 2nd June 2009 and James Paice MP even used Parliamentary Privilege to expose some of the unwholesome details (documented on Hansard).
  4. The FSA did a Section 166 Review which progressed to a Section 168 Investigation.

What part of the list above would allow the CEO of any business to think this was a matter that could simply be swept under the carpet and denied? At what point did Mr Daniels think the best way forward was to ignore the victims or, in our case, to proceed with trying to evict us from our home 22 times so that we could not continue our investigation into the fraud? Leaving aside integrity or even decency, has Mr Daniels never heard of damage limitation?

And the end result of pretending the HBOS Reading fraud never happened is Thames Valley Police and SOCA are now into their second year of ‘Operation Hornet’, the full scale investigation into what really happened at HBOS Reading. 8 people including 2 bankers have been arrested so far – which suggests that while Mr Daniels has not taken this matter seriously, the police have.

That cannot be good for the reputation of HBOS, Lloyds Banking Group or any of the senior executives, past or present, of HBOS or Lloyds who have refused to deal with the matter. Surely it is the responsibility of these people, who are paid vast amounts of money, to make make sure that a) major frauds do not happen in the Bank and b) when something does go horribly wrong, it is dealt with quickly, fairly and efficiently. But that has not happened – not under Andy Hornby nor Peter Cummings nor Eric Daniels. More importantly, anything detrimental to the Bank’s reputation, is not good for the shareholders which, in this case, means the Country. We have all seen Lloyds share price drop from pounds to pennies – while pay and bonuses for the top bankers have gone from thousands to millions. For what? For running the banks into the ground?

To make matters worse and even more confusing, Mr Daniels was in charge when the false bank account in the name of Zenith Cafe Ltd was being debited. I have already blogged about this but I forgot to add a vital point. While the Bank are busy convincing the FSA this is an ‘internal’ account which our company was never going to be asked to repay, we have the letters demanding repayment and telling us we must stick to the overdraft limit – which is of course zero as you can’t negotiate an overdraft for an account you don’t know about.

Presumably Mr Daniels would say he didn’t know about the account. He would be oblivious to the fact Zenith Cafe appears to owe the Bank approx. £630,000 – £200,000 of which was to pay the Bank’s lawyers to be involved with 5 of our eviction hearings when they weren’t instructed in that matter.

But even the FSA are now saying they are taking this matter very seriously because it simply isn’t possible to add approximately £250,000 worth of interest and charges (going up at £11,000+ per month) to a £372,000 debt for their legal fees and come out with a £600,000+ credit which is explained away as an ‘internal’ matter. So maybe, as CEO, Mr Daniels should have known about it so he could have asked the question – who authorised it? And how many other fake accounts were/are manipulating the Bank’s loan book? What impact is this or other ‘internal’ accounts having on the P&L? Or did this well paid now ex CEO have no idea what was happening on  his watch?

This morning I was reading an old letter from a Mr Godfrey at the Bank on behalf of Mr Daniels. It says – over and above the usual, “we’ve dealt with this so go away” – that the Bank is fully aware of our level of indebtedness. Maybe they were – but I certainly wasn’t as I knew nothing about the account for the first 18 months after the Bank created it! And I’m wondering now if my other company, Zenith Publishing Ltd, also has a false account attributed to it and how much does that one show as owing to the Bank?

Many people would say the ‘fantastic’ deal Mr Daniels and friends did when they merged a good or at least functioning bank, Lloyds, with a basket case, HBOS, caused thousands of people to lose a fortune. Not the kind of fortune top bankers or Corporate CEOs make in bonuses but the few thousand pounds a lot of people thought they were going to get annually as a pension when they retired – or the reasonable wage they made before thousands were made redundant when the Bank had to off load staff to increase profits – or the comfortable nest egg they had which meant they could afford a reasonable lifestyle. So many people’s lives changed thanks to the Lloyds/HBOS merger and even more lives have changed thanks to the overall bank bailouts.

I think we are all entitled to question why so many of the people who caused economic catastrophe have been so handsomely rewarded?

We are entitled to ask why people who have possibly broken the law, are not being prosecuted?

We are entitled to ask why people who have breached FSMA 2000, who have acted with little or no integrity and who have caused damage to our banking system via their negligence, have not been struck off as directors?

Personally I would ask why the ex CEO of Lloyds Banking Group was able to; totally ignore the evidence he was sent of a major fraud which has resulted in a major police investigation that is detrimental to the bank ; allow and even authorise the malicious persecution of the victims of the fraud; allow a false account to be operated in the name of a victim’s company (when false accounting is a criminal offence); and why should he walk away with £5 million pounds?

It doesn’t make any sense to me and I’m deeply disappointed UKFI, our Government and our regulators seem unable to understand how offensive this pay off is to the majority of the British people. This is not about banker bashing – it’s just logic and I imagine the 43,000 people who have lost or are losing their jobs at Lloyds, will also be wondering about  the logic of them all ending up with nothing when the man in charge of the disastrous merger, can get so much?

Maybe, on a personal level, Mr Daniels is a good man – I wouldn’t know. But in my view, he isn’t a good business man and I cannot understand why a bank that is 41% owned by the state, is paying him £5M? Or why he has been getting £3,333 a day since last March for doing nothing?  Or is the  implication, it was costing us much more than that when Mr Daniels was doing ‘something’?

I’m inclined to think it was. He has cost this Nation a fortune – and now his pension from the part state owned bank he was instrumental in ruining, will keep paying him a fortune every year for the rest of his life.

Eric Daniels, Fred Goodwin, Peter Cummings – some might consider them to be three of the most successful bank robbers in British history. No horses, no getaway cars, no balaclava’s, no dynamite. How did they do it?

HBOS Reading – slow progress

We spent 4 years being defrauded by HBOS employees and associates and a further 10 years trying to expose what the Bank did to our and others’ businesses. For the first three of the ten years it was pretty much the case no one wanted to know and many people, including HBOS executives, were keen to portray my husband Paul and I either as nut cases (what do you mean bankers have committed fraud?) or as whinging business owners who didn’t want to repay their loans. Of course they also repeatedly put us through eviction hearings in their attempts to silence us but that didn’t work out either.

Which is why we have spent years gathering indisputable evidence of the fraud. As a consequence of a collective refusal by bankers and the authorities to believe what we were saying, even when we produced the evidence to support our allegations including in the many Court hearings, we are very aware who knew what and who was complicit in a massive cover up to hide the fraud, a cover up that goes all the way to the top of the Bank.

Nevertheless we did eventually, with the help of many other victims and with the hard work of Thames Valley Police, see bankers and their chums arrested, prosecuted and jailed. That process took over six years from the start of the police investigation. It wouldn’t have taken that long had the Bank been as co-operative as they like to say they were.

Despite the best efforts of many for it not to happen, Lynden Scourfield and Mark Dobson, both senior HBOS bankers, and David Mills, owner of Quayside Corporate Services and his team (including his wife), have gone to jail for a total of 47 years between them. So it is fair to say we and others have been vindicated and finally, albeit kicking and screaming, Lloyds Banking Group did agree to compensate all those defrauded.

It’s now five months since the criminal trial finished and eleven months since Lynden Scourfield (and therefore the Bank) pleaded guilty to various fraudulent scenarios. Despite statements, press releases and comments from the CEO of Lloyds Banking Group and despite a letter to Paul and I from Lord Blackwell saying he hoped that how the Bank would deal with this would restore trust in the Bank, only one person (according to the Bank) has been compensated and a further six (according to the Bank) have received offers.

I have no idea who these people are? No one I have spoken to – I’ve been speaking to victims of HBOS Reading since mid-2007 and the list of names is quite comprehensive – none of them have been compensated.

A representative of the Bank has been quoted in various newspapers saying the Bank are disappointed the compensation process is taking so long because they had a deadline of 30th June 2017. The Bank say the cause of the delay is because victims want more time to present their information. Or to put it another way, the problem is the victims!!!

Victims I have spoken to are also disappointed. They are disappointed the Bank’s chosen method of resolution is via a ‘review’ scheme that seems to be remarkably similar to the failed IRHP scheme or RBS GRG failed compensation scheme. The person running the Lloyds Banking Group ‘independent’ review is Professor Griggs, who I don’t doubt is an intelligent and honourable man. However, he is also someone who has done consultancy work for Lloyds Banking Group and he has been a director of a company where one of the main shareholders was connected to David Mills of Quayside Corporate Services, who was sent to jail for 15 years for his role in the fraud and corruption.

Then there is the way the review is being run. A member of SME Alliance who has met with Professor Griggs, has told us (and we are grateful for the information):

  • Neither the Bank nor Professor Griggs will volunteer any information about the methodology behind the review. Representatives of the Bank have said they cannot comment because Professor Griggs devised the methodology. Professor Griggs has said he cannot give any comment or information because the Bank devised the methodology.
  • A victim who chooses to enter the review process can either fill in the questionnaire Professor Griggs has prepared or they can send their information in an alternative format. Once the information has been received, it will be assessed by a panel and they will make a non-negotiable offer in approximately four weeks. Victims will not know who is on the panel and if they don’t find the offer satisfactory, they can of course choose to litigate (as if the majority of the victims can afford to litigate!).
  • The Bank will pay reasonable legal costs as part of the review but that is limited to a payment for fees totalling 20 hours. I can’t speak for other victims but having met many of them and researched the circumstances behind their cases, I’m not sure it’s fair or reasonable to suggest any victim can condense 10, 12, 14 years of their lives into a 20 hour explanation that will allow their advisers or their legal representatives to present a fully comprehensive presentation of their case.

I’m not sure if the Bank consider they should make additional payments for forensic accountants. I do think they should cover this cost because, let’s face it, some people may find it difficult to calculate losses going back more than 10 years. Additionally, I wonder how many hours the Bank’s lawyers have spent on each victim’s case? I’m guessing it’s far more than 20 hours per case, which hardly seems equitable. For example, Paul and I are not in the review but Professor Griggs does seem to know a lot about our case and it would take far more than 20 hours to go through the copious correspondence between us and HBOS/LBG/ Dentons/Walker Morris and others over the last 10 years. And I wonder what the hourly rate is for the Bank’s lawyers? I know how much one day of fees for Denton Wilde Sapte (now Dentons) costs because I apparently paid a fortune for a senior solicitor representing the Bank’s Board, to attend 6 of our 22 eviction hearings. Will the Bank pay such exorbitant fees to the victim’s advisers? I think not and I am now aware the Bank are challenging the adviser’s fees.

I wonder what will happen if the Bank, having dragged this whole sorry affair out for so long, decide they won’t pay the costs for the victim’s advisers? In theory either the victims themselves will have to pay (so goodbye to the recent ex-gratia payments) or the advisers will just have to stop working.

Conclusion (of the review). Professor Griggs, who may be a very nice man, is not the obvious choice as an ‘independent reviewer” as he has worked for the Bank and had a connection with David Mills through a Company of which he was an Officer. And let’s not forget any money Mills invested in shares or any shares he received as remuneration, came from tainted money or proceeds of crime.

There is absolutely no transparency regarding the review’s methodology – you cannot know how the Professor or anyone else plans to assess your life. If you do enter the review you will not know who the faceless panel are who assess your compensation but you do know their word is final – there is no appeal, debate or discussion. Take it – or leave it and find mega bucks to take the Bank to Court.

Paul and I are not part of the review but I don’t think we are the two people mentioned in the press last week because those people are going down the litigation route. As I know victims who are going down that route and as we are also not in the review, I think someone in the Bank’s press office was slightly confused when they said only two people weren’t participating in the review. Not least because I know of others who, like us, have agreed with the Bank we do not have to take part in it.

Then there’s the number of victims. I’ve been looking at the details of our investigation, which was by no means comprehensive but I don’t understand where the figure of 67 comes from? I can only assume the list doesn’t include shareholders or creditors. I would have thought HMRC would have complained bitterly about that as they are a multiple creditor – not to mention many local Councils.

The biggest disappointment for me (other than the long drawn out time scales, the lack of transparency and the bizarre pretence victims would find the review process acceptable) is the fact this whole situation has been premised on a lie.

I’m not going to go into detail on why I know this is a fact and a huge problem. However, I would just point out to Lloyds Banking Group that, had they done what Lord Blackwell told Paul and I the Bank would do and if they had swiftly, appropriately and generously compensated the victims (Lord B didn’t use the word generously but I’m throwing it into the mix because I believe that’s what he meant), there would have been no delay in compensation and there would not have been endless media articles about Lloyds Banking Group’s extremely disappointing conduct and lack of integrity.

Sorting out this shameful episode was/is not rocket science. All the victims have advisers or legal representation or can get it (there’s no shortage of lawyers offering to help victims). If the Bank had put forward 11 of their best advisers and given them 6 cases each and if the Bank’s advisers had liaised directly with the victim’s representatives, I’m guessing the whole process would have been over and done within a matter of 6 to 10 weeks. I fail to understand why that option wasn’t considered? Why does it have to be so tortuous?

To be clear Lord Blackwell, Mr Horta-Osorio and Mr Colombas, what the victims want is their lives back or as much as we can get back. That won’t happen until they have compensation and closure. I’m guessing the way things are going, the Bank’s major shareholders would also like to see some closure on HBOS Reading before more damaging information about Lloyds is exposed in the press.

It is possible much of what is happening now is designed to wear victims down so that if and when offers of compensation come, the victims will accept anything because they are just tired of fighting. That and the fact many victims are no longer spring chickens and don’t have the time for another prolonged battle. Worse still – some have cancer or other serious conditions.

Of course I can’t prove that theory (it’s not as easy as proving the fraud) but 10 years of dealing with the senior management of Lloyds Banking Group including Sir Win Bischoff, Eric Daniels, Harry Baines, Philip Grant, Antonio Horta-Osorio, Juan Colombas and, more recently, Lord Blackwell, has not instilled any confidence and even if I would like to believe what Lord Blackwell wrote in his letter, I am now struggling.

Where are we now? I have no idea. I’m not actually sure the Bank’s senior management knows but they probably do and this is all by design. Hopefully we will all know a bit more soon but and in the meantime, 30th June 2017 has come and gone and I can confirm the victims are far more disappointed than the Bank or its representatives.

Personally I am disappointed Lord Blackwell has either been insincere in his letter to Paul and I or, less likely, those in the Bank dealing with this matter are not inclined to listen to the Chairman.

 

Nikki Turner                                                                                                                10th July 2017

#RBS Redress Scheme- Offensive and Ridiculous

I never like to rush letters. They need to be well thought out, written, considered, edited, considered, edited again and then sent. News is so fast these days you could write a letter today and by tomorrow everything could change and your letter could be out of date and pointless. So I’m glad SME Alliance didn’t send the letter we wrote to Ross McEwan at RBS a few days ago because it would have been absolutely pointless.

The basis of our letter was in these two paragraphs:

As we understand it, the majority of businesses entitled to redress are already in administration or liquidation. As such, the business owners who have been mistreated or suffered loss will have no locus to request redress or compensation and only the administrators or liquidators can make any claim on behalf of the insolvent businesses. Therefore any repayment or award will end up paying the fees of the Insolvency practitioners or with the creditors of those businesses – of which your Bank is likely to be the major creditor.

If the above scenario is the reality of your proposed scheme it would be a highly cynical house keeping exercise and of little or no assistance to the business owners who have been so poorly treated. Aside from the fact £400M seems a totally inadequate figure for the serious damage caused to thousands of small businesses, we are concerned that, as in the case of the IRHP redress scheme, this scheme will fail to acknowledge or address the real issues – that in many instances your employees, presumably as a matter of policy, have behaved dishonestly to your customers and that is the prime reason for so many insolvencies.

Apparently that scenario is exactly what will happen with the scheme. The thousands of SMEs who have been placed in an insolvent position because of RBS GRG will have absolutely no right to claim redress.

It seemed illogical to me and others in SME Alliance that anyone would be quite that blatantly offensive to society. After all, SMEs represent over 90% of private business and employ millions of people. So when you take out 16,000 SMEs, you cause literally thousands of people to lose their jobs. And when people lose their jobs, it follows they can’t pay their mortgage so they lose their homes.

Just hold that thought for a moment. Just imagine you have done nothing wrong, a Bank has destabilised your business and taken your assets and to finish you off and so that you are so traumatised you can’t fight back, they take your family home. You and your children must pack up and go……. where? And why?

I keep playing this video clip because I keep hoping someone senior in RBS will watch this video of Nigel Henderson’s “Who Amongst You” speech at the Cambridge International Symposium On Economic Crime last September  and say “Oh my God, why on earth did we do this to this man and his family?” No such luck: http://www.smealliance.org/blog/who-among-you-extract-from-nigel-hendersons-powerful-speech

The conduct of RBS GRG has no doubt had a huge effect on society – the same society that bailed it out for billions of pounds.

I’m sure many SMEs read the announcement that RBS would be giving firms redress and thought their nightmare was over because the whole RBS GRG scam was exposed. But it seems that is not the case. The Bank appointed insolvency practitioners will do very well out of this deal and the Bank, as a major creditor to the companies it pulled down will be paying much of the £400M allotted back to themselves as a major creditor. Even if every penny of the proposed £400M really went to the people who most deserved it, that would work out at a maximum of £33,000 – that’s a couple of days wages to some senior bankers.

The fact remains – RBS was run so disastrously it ended up with billions of pounds of debt and had the public, via the Government, not bailed it out it would have gone to the wall. This is the Bank that felt it could run thousands of SMEs better than their owners. It was always obvious that couldn’t happen and I think some would suggest the GRG department of RBS could only run its own business and any business it was involved with straight into a wall – a brick wall. All the same we bailed it out and continued to pay it’s bosses millions of pounds to fail with vigour.

The Bank’s way of thanking its major shareholder since 2008 is to carry on with business as usual, destroying thousands of SMEs and, when it was finally exposed as an unethical and immoral organisation, it’s answer has been to come up with this cynical plan which will leave most of its victims in the same position.

While RBS are not the only Bank to take such a cynical approach to the people that saved it, it is perhaps the most disappointing. Certainly SME Alliance is disappointed any Bank would be quite so cavalier in its destruction of people’s lives but we are also very disappointed the so called ‘regulator’ of the banking sector would allow this to happen and condone this plan which is no more than a diabolical bit of house keeping by RBS.

If you own an SME that was destroyed by RBS GRG I would suggest you think carefully before joining any scheme proposed by RBS. Not every cloud has a silver lining and not every person has a moral streak. It seems this scheme is offensive and ridiculous.

The Village Of The Dammed – How Did We Get Here?

The other night I watched John Carpenter’s ‘Village Of The Dammed.’ I’ve seen it before and, much as I like John Carpenter films, I’m sure he would agree it is a bit dated (although the message is still very clear). But you know what it’s like when you get to that point of the evening, after an exasperating day, when you end up watching whatever happens to be on the TV but without making a conscience choice? Well that was me.

Some times I think nothing is random. As it turns out the film was actually so relevant to life in the 21st Century, it was even more scary now than when it was made. All the way through the film I kept thinking – this is where we are now. A very small minority has the ability to control and torture the majority. In that case it was a bunch of children sired by an alien life form. In our case it’s a bunch of bankers who don’t only have control over the people but also control over Governments. The same Governments who profess to work for the people because they were elected by the people – but, it would seem, are terrified of the banks.

It’s been interesting therefore to realise there is one species that considers itself superior to everyone – the so called Elite which includes bankers but also sharp practiser’s who are so wealthy they believe (and who would realistically question them) they are a cut above everything and even morality . Which is why Philip Green – the mega mogul who has been unbelievably successful in getting multi millions from banks can, it would seem, simply refuse to attend a hearing in front of a Parliamentary Committee if he doesn’t want to. Not only that, his terms for attending are so ludicrous (he requires the resignation of the Chair of the Committee) he knows they would never be adhered to – so he just won’t turn up and he’s off the hook. In a world full of sharks, there is always a bigger shark somewhere.

For anyone who doesn’t know who Philip Green is – he is the name behind a whole host of High Street stores like Top Shop, Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Burtons etc. etc. and, of course BHS. BHS which went into administration recently causing the loss of 11,000 jobs and with a £500M plus deficit in the pensions fund.

I think it would take a team of forensic accountants a very long time to get a clear picture of Sir Phil’s business empire and I’m not sure it would be possible unless all those Countries participating in the ‘off shore accounts club’ were to reach a unilateral agreement on transparency. It’s more likely Boris and Dave would make up and form a new State with Putin as its leader.

So this is where we are:

Our banks are so big they cannot fail. Our Government is so afraid of offending financial services they have agreed to the terms of La La Land. We have laws but they don’t apply to everyone and in part because the majority of people can’t afford the process of accessing the Courts let alone applying the laws. Our regulators (should I add our honoured regulators) seem so biased towards their remit of ‘Market Confidence’, they’ve shelved ‘Consumer Protection’. Our auditors are so reliant on mega bucks from Corporations they wouldn’t say boo to a toxic goose even if it was about to suffocate every one in a thousand mile radius. And, to add insult to injury, we have people like Philip Green who has milked the banks (including banks bailed out by the tax payer), and is now demanding the resignation of the Chairman of a Parliamentary Commission because – well, what better way to get out of answering any questions about anything.

If MPs annoy him enough, I dare say he’ll be so miffed he’ll close down the whole kit and caboodle, sell up and retire to Monaco. Yes he might lose his Knighthood but does anyone really think he gives a rats arse about a title as opposed to the several hundred million pounds it would now cost him to keep it? And if he did pay to keep it, how honourable would that appear to be? It wouldn’t change what happened to BHS or the cavalier way 11,000+ have been treated. It would just mean a billionaire dropped a few hundred million to remain a Knight of the Realm. What value would that put on being a Knight Of The Realm?
None of it says much for the progression of Capitalism. Not that Socialism, Communism or Fascism have worked too well either. So where do we go from here? Have the so called ‘Elite’ won the day? Have we come so far a billionaire can take delivery of a multi million pound yacht while thousands of people lose their jobs and their hard earned pensions and there’s nothing anyone can do about it? Unfortunately I think the answer is yes. Legally Parliament has no power over perceived inequality and proving a legal case against a smart operator getting incredibly wealthy at the public expense, is a non starter. Morally, Parliament has every right to ask questions but legally (and it’s all about the law), what good can pointing out moral obligation do?

Many people have watched ‘The Big Short’ and many people have been shocked by it – but most people in SME Alliance won’t be. Most of them are living with the consequences of the laws of La La land. The members of SME Alliance are exasperated at the way in which bankers have trampled over our businesses and our lives and we have made a small but definitely recognisable protest. We’re not particularly brave at SME Alliance but so many of us have been put with our backs against the wall we have had to collectively object and come out fighting. I’m sure, to those running multi billion Corporations, be they banks or business empires, they feel we are no more than gnats trying to infiltrate a Rhinoceros hide. If the likes of Philip Green can brush off Parliamentary Committee’s in such a cavalier manner, it doesn’t hold out much hope for us lesser mortals. Or does it?

People power – when enough people recognise corruption and inequality is getting out of hand, the results, historically, have repeatedly been surprising. The EU Debate will be the best test of people power. Whether you’re IN or OUT, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the people running both shows just don’t know any more which way the public vote will swing. And that has been a wake up call for those who thought the public were neither here nor there in the debate. As it turns out, it wouldn’t even be easy to rig this vote because there are strong forces on both sides.

However, if we do come out of Europe and for many reasons I have always been for Brexit, I see no bright future for Britain while we remain entirely under the control of an elite minority who can’t even be called to account by Parliament. Staying in Europe or coming out will result in little change unless we re-instate democracy, morality and the law – and we’re a long way from that while the powers that be have no ability to ask questions, let alone hold people to account. Even if Philip Green does turn up and answer questions in front of the Parliamentary Committee and even if the Committee don’t like his answers, what can they do about it?

As it turns out, ‘The Village Of The Dammed’ is not as dated a concept as I thought.

When justice is delayed too long the Devil is dancing.

It’s very hard to write a rational, unemotional blog about the state of our financial system when I’ve just been to see a friend, who is a victim of bank fraud, who has been waiting for justice for over 10 years, and who is now dying of terminal cancer. But I’m going to try because too many people now are dying without ever seeing justice done. Perhaps just as bad, those they leave behind see little benefit to justice in the future because no amount of money or even bankers being jailed, can never bring back someone you love. There are some things money can’t buy.

I should add straight away that I’m not saying a bank caused my friend’s cancer – it didn’t. But years of stress, anguish, eviction hearings and trying to make ends meet will not have helped the situation. I’m not a doctor but it seems logical to me that the energy and willpower you need to try and fight of an evil disease like cancer and which should be your primary concern, is not aided when you have bailiffs at the door and a banks top lawyers trying to grind your chances of justice into the ground with legal technicalities and the ever promoted ‘costs’ threat.

That is a reality. When victims of bank misconduct are put with their backs against the wall, no one in authority says “hang on a minute, there’s a reason they can’t pay their Council tax or their bills”, they just go for the throat – which is why we have obscene programmes like ‘Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away.” Bankers on the other hand, faced with serious allegations that may see them facing fines or, God forbid, criminal charges, can rely on their fail safe – money. Shareholders money (in some cases tax payers money) to bail them out of difficult situations.

It’s only a month since the wife of one of the SME Alliance members died of a heart attack – and in that case I suspect the conduct of a bank was the root cause. When that happened it reminded me of an article I found years ago which was written as a result of research by Cambridge University academics, entitled “Can a Bank Crisis Break Your Heart?”: http://www.cam.ac.uk/news/can-a-bank-crisis-break-your-heart

Obviously a bank crisis and I would add bank policy, can break your heart but business, economic climate and political policy doesn’t seem very interested in the human cost of unethical or even criminal bankers conduct. I say bankers because, as always, I would remind everyone that despite legal terminology, a ‘bank’ is the sum of the people who run it. So I’m feeling pretty heart broken even although I’m not the person dying. Neither am I going to be the person most affected by living without my friend. Her husband and children are and even her parents (who can bear the thought of burying their child?).

Anyway, all this has just hammered me. I’ve found it hard to function in the last few days thinking my friend has a couple of weeks to live and there is no way I can do anything about it or even guarantee justice will be served when she’s gone.

I know it’s very non PC of me to talk about human tragedy and banking in the same breath – but tough. It’s about time we stopped pussy footing around what is happening. Above all else, I believe that as a society we should not let the interests of economics or globalisation over take our ability or even our wish to be decent human beings. Sadly, some people, whether because they are genuinely socio-paths or whether their terms of employment push them into that position, are losing site of their responsibilities as human beings.

Maybe they just don’t realise the consequences of their actions? Certainly many bankers and regulators seem willing to turn a blind eye to the reality of bad banking conduct – and this cavalier attitude to individuals is, ironically, doing good banking a huge disservice. Whereas it seemed totally unreasonable up until 2008 to suggest bankers were anything other than professional people and an essential part of society, in general the opposite applies now and the collective name for bankers is often derogatory regardless of whether they are perfectly good people or one of the acknowledged egomaniacs who have hit the headlines in recent years. No one bats an eye to “yet another banking scandal.” We have even become immune to them – right up to the moment they affect us personally. Right up to the moment a bank deliberately targets our business or repossesses our house. Right up to the moment we realise there is no defence against this immoral conduct.

I have been fighting for justice since 2007. I thought it would be easy and that, having identified a massive bank fraud, I could write to senior management of the bank concerned and they would be keen to investigate the matter and make sure any victims of the fraud were compensated and the villains persecuted. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Since then successive senior managements have gone out of their way to bury the fraud I identified and even persecute the victims – presumably in the belief attack is the best defence. But why would you attack your own clients for things your own staff did? I don’t know why but I do know at Board level that has been the banks’ preferred choice.

Nine years on I am still waiting for justice – and so is my friend. Except now justice will come too late. When she dies and she knows she will very soon, she will be the sixth victim to have died without seeing justice for this particular bank fraud.

Last summer one of my colleagues at SME Alliance and I went to a meeting with Head Counsel and Head of Litigation for a major bank. When our conversation turned to Private Criminal Prosecutions, the Head of Litigation became quite outraged and he said that we should realise that when we make criminal allegations we are ruining people’s lives. Even now I remain confused by this comment – does he seriously not realise how many lives his bank is ruining? Not just ruining lives but taking lives? Clearly the man was capable of having empathy towards others because he seemed genuinely concerned we would consider criminal proceedings against bankers. So how comes this same bank is notorious for its lack of empathy to its customers? Are they considered as a different species? Is this why the good old personal bank manager had to go – because he did empathise with his clients? Maybe he even liked them so the idea of selling them  ‘products of mass destruction’ would have have been distasteful to him?

In terms of banking reform I believe we are walking backwards. No one is properly regulating banks and no one is stopping the merry-go-round of greed and corruption which remains rife in our financial sector. On the other side of the fence, public anger is not dissipating and when one person dies one hundred people dig their heels in harder and want to see justice done. In the same way you can only beat a dog so many times before it will bite you, you can only break so many hearts before the consequences become equally dire.

I wish the senior management of banks would wake up to this fact. Justice has a way of being done despite all attempts to stop it and that includes the apparently well known judicial phrase “might over right.”

It is fortunate my friend is deeply religious and she has no doubt she will be going to a better place – neither do I doubt it, she is a good and kind person. The one sure thing we know about life is we we all leave it one day and the departure lounge for that journey doesn’t have a first class section or private jets – just a completely level playing field or “right over might.”

Now Is Not The Time To Stop Lobbying For Ethical Change.

I wrote this blog at the beginning of February this year but didn’t post it – I can’t remember why and I probably just got distracted by something to do with a bank! Anyway, today the article about George selling off Land Registry reminded me about this blog and why charitable or not for profit organisations like SME Alliance need to be lobbying more rather than less – and now we also need to lobby for the right to lobby!! If we don’t, I fear very soon freedom of speech itself will be threatened.

Happy Easter to all.

Nikki

Now Is Not The Time To Stop Anyone Lobbying For Ethical Change.

It seems the Government are closing yet another door to democracy. I find the announcement last week that charities cannot use State money (tax payers money) to lobby for any changes in the law, quite sinister and quite sneaky. Not least for charities who campaign for justice – of which there are many. I suspect funding from Government is quite minimal to such charities anyway but, whatever the amounts, it is likely to be diminished to any charity that dares to speak out against Government policy.

What I find so offensive about this new ruling is the fact that while Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, is right and this could result in charities, taking “a vow of silence”, it will also very definitely mean even less opposition or challenge to the mighty ‘lobbying machine’ of big business. It is already an inequitable situation because most charities are struggling for any kind of funding post the credit crunch and unlike big business, charities are not based on profits but on positive action for good causes. When charities lobby for a change in policy or law it is generally in reaction to what they have seen as the consequences of either ‘bad law’ or evolving necessities. When big business lobby’s, the goal is invariably market share, shareholder value, reduced regulation or, let’s face it, how to keep fat cats fat. And in far too many cases, ‘The Ministry of Revolving Doors’ means MPs or regulators have a keen interest in keeping big business happy.

I’m no expert in lobbying but, even a quick surf of the net shows just how important lobbying is. For example this simple explanation in the Guardian (March 2014) clarifies what lobbyists do:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/12/lobbying-10-ways-corprations-influence-government

To a certain extent we are all aware of what lobbyists do and we’ve got used to the idea some companies believe (probably correctly) the best way to get results is to rely on the familiar maxims “you get what you pay for” and “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” If there is no other side to the coin i.e people lobbying for something just because it is fair, equitable and with no financial gain, then what we’re really doing is paving the way for important laws and policies to be swayed or decided on a ‘highest bidder wins’ basis.

What the Government is proposing is a curb on legitimate challenge by charitable organisations by restricting their ability to fund lobbying activities. This is rather like our inequitable two tier justice system whereby very few individuals or SMEs can ever challenge big business (especially banks) in the Courts because they have been priced out of the system.

I found an interesting article in the Bureau of Investigative Journalism about our Top 10 most powerful lobbyists – although the article does date back to 2012 and this list of names has probably changed by now:

https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/07/13/britains-10-most-powerful-finance-lobbyists/

Of particular interest to me was No.2 on the list, Anthony Browne, Chief Executive of the British Banking Association. This organisation is funded by its members – the banks – to the tune of £7,729,000 in subscriptions (2014) and no one can say Mr Browne hasn’t done a good job (from the bankers point of view). Recently we’ve seen; the review into banking culture cancelled; various reports delayed for so long it means they are now about as useful as wet loo roll; a complete u-turn on holding senior bankers responsible for what happens in their banks and; any number of deals brokered for banks to pay their way our of repeated misconduct against consumers, breaches of financial regulation or even criminal prosecutions. Even if Mr Browne has slipped down to 4 or 5 on the list, surely it is hugely important to maintain a serious opposition to the powerful banking lobby?

If I had to say which banks have been most damaging to the members of SME Alliance, I’d say RBS is top of the list, followed by Lloyds/HBOS. Both banks were bailed out for billions of pounds by the tax payer and they have both paid a fortune in fines or compensation for various examples of misconduct. Both have representation on the BBA Board:

https://www.bba.org.uk/about-us/bba-board/

And both are represented by one of the most powerful lobbyists in the Country (and Mr Browne is just one of many powerful lobbyists for the financial sector). So – tax payers bailed out these banks and they are able to use tax payers money to lobby at the highest levels of Government in the same way they have used tax payers money to pay their fines, fight their battles in the Courts and continue with their telephone number pay packets to their senior executives. But the charities who are busy mopping up the catastrophic austerity the banks were so instrumental in causing, cannot use tax payers money to lobby for change or reform in banking or anything else.

Why? Because, according to Cabinet Office Minister, Matthew Hancock “Taxpayers’ money must be spent on improving people’s lives and spreading opportunities, not wasted on the farce of Government lobbying Government.”:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3434720/Charities-set-ban-using-Government-grants-lobbying.html

Yes, you have read that correctly – charities can’t spend tax payers money lobbying MPs for anything because the Government wants all charitable donations made on our behalf to be spent on making our lives better. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. I think Mr Hancock is relying on the logic of La La Land and his statement is wrong. As long as this Government continues to be happy for the Country to be run for the commercial gain of a minority, it is crucial tax payers money is spent on exposing such an undemocratic system and that charities have every opportunity to be as vociferous as possible about any and everything they identify as detrimental to society because of bad law, bad law enforcement or inequitable access to justice.

Reading the list of the top 10 most powerful lobbyists in Britain, I would say the financial sector is becoming a bit of a ‘lobbying cartel’ which doesn’t just have the ear of the Conservative party, it controls the whole head, arms, legs and torso. When the Conservatives were voted back into power, it seems the real victory was for ‘The City of London’ and now the ‘masters of the universe’ have found another way to make its ‘puppet’ limit any further opposition to its avaricious and anti social plans. What next I wonder? We’ve already seen the results powerful lobbying has on Government (all three of the main parties) – the most obvious being soft touch regulation of a corrupt financial sector that brought the whole country to its knees and has seen thousands of people relying on food banks. Now we’re going to see ‘the consequences of inequitable lobbying power.’ Maybe we should all order in a good stock of banana’s before the next insidious brain wave.

Ironically and without doubt this latest and dangerous lunacy has come about because of powerful lobbying. And the spin factor, that ‘it’s all for our own good’, is very offensive and implies this Government thinks we, the public, are all very stupid. Now is not a good time to stop Charities lobbying – it’s time we all started lobbying our MPs to take power back from big business before we really do become a Banana Republic.