Sunday, 18 May 2014

From Ashes to Ashes

Sixteenth century English poet, critic and writer Samuel Johnson once said, “Fraud and falsehood... dread examination. Truth invites it” and yet more than five years on since the near demise of HBOS, the long promised FSA/FCA investigation remains as elusive as the truth and the prosecution of those responsible.

Instead, some would have us believe the future is bright.
However in contrast,
For those who have paid the price of HBOS’ fraud and falsehood, the truth still falls a long way short of a revival and although Antonio Horta Osorio’s two years of hard work may well have “paid off” for him personally, for the vast majority of banking crisis victims, incomes (in real terms) have dropped, homes have been lost, austerity measures impact on every facet of their lives and legal assistance is even harder to access. Furthermore, while “new” mortgage rules may well reduce the number of miss sold mortgages in the future, they, along with the unsuprisingly similar “old rules”, remain nothing more than regulatory recommendations and, if the past truly is a reasonable indicator for the future, it would be fair to assume it is still just as unlikely there will not be much by way of consequence for those who continue to flout them. 

In truth the “ashes of the great recession” are very much part of  the landscape for the vast majority of us and not only do they fall a long way short of fuelling a revival, but instead they provide a harsh reminder of how little has changed for those who fiddled to secure immense returns while the UK economy burned. Furthermore, if the government and the regulators remain committed to endorsing criminal banking behavior with apathy, it will actively encourage the Antonio Horta Osario's of this world, their "hard working" executive offices and the toothless Financial Ombudsman Service to ignore the victims of the banking crisis too. Little wonder HBOS are unprepared to believe my six year old claim that my mortgage was arranged fraudulently or that my six week old request to supply me with further evidence to aid my case against their broker, even warrants a reply.

Influential English novelist, journalist and critic of social injustice Eric Arthur Blair, whose pen name was George Orwell, once said, “In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act” and I for one believe when it comes to HBOS, a much needed revolutionary act is long overdue.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Estimates and Equanimity

Stoic philosopher of service and duty, champion of equanimity in the face of conflict and the last of the five good Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius once said, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it: and this you have the power to revoke at any moment” and, in the face of the  Financial Ombudsman Services painfully disappointing decision to reject my Bank of Scotland mortgage fraud compliant, I have spent the past few weeks revoking its power to distress by investigating and collating my evidence in readiness to give to the police.

During the process of making inquiries aimed at presenting the clearest of pictures, I have discovered the following,
  • The Financial Ombudsman Service is not empowered to comment or rule on mortgage fraud and, according to the Financial Conduct Authority, should have made this clear to me from the outset.
  • My local Serious Fraud Office are currently dealing with numerous broker driven mortgage frauds which are almost identical in nature to that of my own case. 
  • Inland Revenue records show our taxable income for the preceding three years to our mortgage application was a mere 17% of that stated by the broker on our mortgage application.
  • The mortgage application submitted to HBOS in March 2006 was not (as I originally assumed) self-certified but instead a full status application offering our company’s accounts as evidence of income and,
  • Mortgage fraud can only be reported to the Serious Fraud Office in the district where the crime was committed.
Convinced this type of mortgage fraud was expertly designed by HBOS and merely implemented by the broker intermediary who introduced it, I made another request to HBOS’ executive team, this time asking them why they chose to remove the broker intermediary from their panel during the underwriting of my mortgage.

This was their response,

“With regards to your concerns about the removal of KMS from our intermediary panel, I have been in contact with our Credit Team and they have confirmed that both KMS and ******* ****** are still on our panel for intermediary business through the Halifax Brand under panel number***********...[and] the broker panel number [used previously] was not cancelled until October 2010 and was deleted as Arrangement Ended. This usually indicates a change of FSA status (such as principal) but is more likely to be due to the fact that the Bank of Scotland brand ceased taking introducer business in 2010. Therefore, our systems would update to show that the intermediary related to the panel number applicable to your application would no longer be on our panel as at today’s date.”

However, this lengthy and seemingly plausible explanation once again takes no account of the Bank of Scotland’s own underwriting screen notes for 2006 which clearly state,“The intermediary keyed for this application has been taken off the panel. Please refer to explain it for the appropriate course of action to take” which does not sound the least bit like a 2010 system update to me.Needless to say, I have now shared this information with Antonio Horta Osario’s executive team and am hoping they might  finally see fit to furnish me with a more meaningful reply.

British Indian novelist, essayist and author of Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie once asked, “How do you defeat terrorism?” His answer was, “Don’t be terrorized” and after six years of living with the terrifying consequences of a financial holocaust in which the Banksters of Scotland have played a significant part, I now live in hope that it will be information which finally sets me free.

As ever, I wait without patience for some results!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Recipe for Disaster

Take three perfectly good financial products,
  • One non status mortgage requiring no proof of income, a cautious valuation and client equity stake of 35%
  • One 100% mortgage requiring no client equity stake, a cautious valuation but belt and braces proof of taxable income and affordability
  • One 80% mortgage, a cautious valuation, belt and braces proof of taxable income and affordabilty offering discounted interest payments for the first two years
Add a large helping of political gain with nauseating proportions of deregulated bankster spin and mix well.

Throwing caution to the wind, allow evidence of income, equity and conservative valuations to float to the top, carefully remove and discard.

Using what is left, re-package as an innovative low risk mortgage product which will take the market by storm

Present finished article to the board in terms of anticipated personal returns and obtain consent to market.

Use highly incentivised bank staff to roll out new product to as many brokers and introducers as possible, turn a blind eye to their methods and pay all concerned on results

Insist all new applications are submitted online by the broker with declaration pages to follow after offer

Provide regulated mortgages of up to a 125% LTV having told brokers that applicants homes will not be valued conservatively and applicants incomes will not be verified.

Have your cake and eat it while watching with detached indifference for the cookies to crumble,

Leave the victims of widespread mortgage fraud to cook in their own juice,

And then, just like HBOS have done with my own case,

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

John F Kennedy once said, “The enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic” and, after five ineffectual years of mythical post crisis reform and regulation of the UK’s banking sector, the truth has not only failed to set me free but it has also failed to spark the Financial Ombudsman Service’s interest or ruffled a single untouchable HBOS  or Lloyds Banking Group feather.

In a last ditch attempt to persuade the dismissive and the disinterested of my sincerity, I have, over the past two weeks, implemented the following;
  • Prepared, sworn under oath and sent a statutory declaration to the FOS reiterating my claim that the mortgage application my broker submitted on line in 2006 contained false information which I did not supply.
  • Sent HBOS’ customer services department my eight page letter of complaint because, contrary to my expectations, the FOS declined to ask HBOS to comment on its contents as part of the complaints process
  • Simultaneously written to Lloyds Banking Group customer services, Lloyds Group Chief Executive Officer Antonia Horta Osario and Lloyds Group Chief Risk Officer Executive Juan Colombas, stating,
“Following the final decision from the FOS on 10 February 2014 it is now my opinion that the contract entered into in 2006 with the Bank of Scotland by myself and my husband is null and void. This is because it did not conform to due process and it was granted on false information which was supplied fraudulently by [a broker] and then negligently verified by HBOS’s underwriters M**** ******, S** ****** and J** ******.
As a result of the Ombudsman’s findings, together with information gleaned from a Data Subject Access Request, I am now of the opinion that I need to make a new complaint.

Yours faithfully”

Life After Debt


  • In an effort to understand the consequences a regulated  lender might suffer if they were found not to have complied with FCA rules, spoken at length with the FCA consumer helpline about my case.
As a result of my endeavours I have been advised;
  • The FOS have received my “letter” and attached it to my file. There is no mention of them changing their plans to publish the ombudsman’s ruling on my case on their website
  • HBOS’ Customer Services are unprepared to discuss my case any further and can only refer me back to the FOS’s recent ruling
  • HBOS’ Executive team are in receipt of my letter of complaint, it is very important to them and they will be responding to it shortly 
And the Financial Conduct Authority informs me;
  • The FOS are not empowered to rule or comment on cases of fraud
  • HBOS are duty bound by FCA rules to prove beyond reasonable doubt they took adequate measures during the underwriting of my mortgage to verify the information contained in my application was true
  • FCA rules run parallel to the law but, as guidelines, are not legally binding. Lenders are not required to keep compliance documentation for more than a year and the FCA, having asked for full details of the alleged perpetrators, strongly recommend I report my findings to Action Fraud or the police.
Thankfully, the tireless support, diligence and expertise of my FB friends has now put the latter very much in hand. 

Nineteenth century German born philosopher and author Arthur Schopenhauer believed, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed and third, it is accepted as being self-evident”. All I can now hope for is that, after six excruciating years of ridicule and violent opposition, the truth may finally become self evident in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office.

After all, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi;

 “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.” 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Washed Up

Irish playwright, journalist and co-founder of the London school of Economics, George Bernard Shaw once said, “Cruelty must be whitewashed by moral excuse and pretence of reluctance” and unsurprisingly my experience in the ineffectual hands of the Financial Ombudsman Service has amounted to nothing less.

Established in 2001 by parliament, the Financial Ombudsman Service is supposed to be an impartial and independent body which settles disputes between consumers and UK based businesses providing financial services. We are encouraged to believe the law requires the ombudsman to take into account relevant law and regulations, regulator's rules, guidance and standards, codes of practice, and (where appropriate) what he/she considers to have been good industry practice at the relevant time, in order to make decisions which are fair and reasonable. From a current case load of over 500,000 each year (a level which has swelled its ranks by four fold since the onset of the banking crisis in 2008), it is estimated the FOS rule in favour of the complainant in approximately 49% of cases.

As a result of my appeal to have my case against HBOS reviewed by an ombudsman, my FOS Final Response has not only dismissed the majority of my case as immaterial and irrelevant but my ombudsman states she has “difficulty in accepting” my claim that either HBOS or their mortgage broker acted fraudulently in order to secure my mortgage business.

I am told she, like my adjudicator, is;

“Not required to respond at ... length or to respond to each and every point raised” but instead has “considered the case in the light of the lending climate at the time [having] noted that the bank has said it will not be pursuing Mr and Mrs [Life after Debt] for the shortfall debt" (a statement which is completely untrue).

Despite the basis of my complaint being that my mortgage application was submitted on line by a broker I never met using an application form I never saw, I am further advised;
  • “ The bank could not have been expected to know the information about the purchase price and date was untrue”
  • “The [brokers signature] on the application form [and the photo copied passports] confirms there was a face to face meeting”
  •  “The factual inaccuracies in the application...were signed as being true”
What is more she has also informed me, with complete disregard for my protestations that her findings are based on false assumptions and not the evidence, the FOS will be publishing her travesty of a ruling on my case on their website.

Former Chief Ombudsman Walter Merricks once said, “The FOS is an unusual creature. One I would suggest parliament would not have dared to create had the ground work not been laid by a series of voluntary initiatives. It is a one sided scheme offering an unlevel playing field broadly supported by those playing up hill...We do not have to pretend to find what the law is. We unashamedly make new law”.

After six whole years engaged in battle with HBOS, a shambolic and whitewashed FOS investigation into my case of complaint has now thrown me straight back into the lawless clutches of HBOS and their debt collectors.

This is cruel, immoral and unjust.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Guarded Lies

Polish born Karl Jozef Wojtyla, influential twentieth century leader and second longest serving pope in history, John Paul II once said, “An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded” and now that I am in receipt of a second Financial Ombudsman Service adjudicator assessment which once again excuses action in the face of HBOS wrong doing, I too believe excuses are indeed terrible and in the case of the FOS, tantamount to guarded lies.

Already in my sixth year of battle, I have spent the last twelve months acquiring documentary evidence to support my suspicion that the mortgage I was sold by the Bank of Scotland in June 2006 was granted as a result of false information supplied by a broker whom HBOS paid £4,500 in fees to introduce. I believe our income figures and our property valuation were massaged by both HBOS and the broker to ensure our financial position matched their lending criteria and because the application was submitted on line by the broker, my husband and I were oblivious to the methods which had been employed to secure us a re-mortgage.

Obtaining the full un-redacted files of all the documentary evidence I require from HBOS has proved an arduous task which is still not complete and despite making the FOS aware of HBOS’ obstructive practices in this regard, I have repeatedly been put under enormous pressure to agree to my case proceeding without the incriminating evidence I have been seeking. As a result of an ultimatum I was given by the FOS to produce my findings by 31 January or else forfeit my case, I was forced to submit my lengthy but nevertheless incomplete eight page letter of “further evidence” sighting several examples of underwriting practices which I believe can only be interpreted as fraudulent. In it I listed the numerous ways in which my adjudicator has both misunderstood my case and, in a previous assessment, elected to use false figures supplied by HBOS to draw his conclusions rather than the substantiated information I supplied.

I  also drew his attention to the following;
  • My mortgage application was submitted, on line, without my husband or I being privy to the information used
  • Once the mortgage was approved, my husband and I were asked to sign two separate declaration pages on two separate occasions on forms that were otherwise blank
  • At no time did we meet the broker or anyone connected to the sale of the mortgage as all transactions were carried out via email, post or telephone
  • The brokerage representative who signed and verified photocopies of our passport for identity and money laundering purposes is unknown to us.
  • The broker asked us to send him photocopies of our passports but at no time did he request that he see the originals.
Having received a copy of the original application form (albeit missing the declaration pages) in January 2013 as a result of a miss selling complaint I made to HBOS, I  learned the following;
  • The earned income figures submitted by the broker were grossly over-estimated and unsurprisingly amount to precisely what was required to comply with HBOS’s two and a half time income multiple underwriting requirement
  • Although my husband was a property developer at the time of application and has never been a sportsman professional or otherwise, HBOS show his occupation to be that of a professional sports person.
  • The income details submitted were not verified with our accountant despite us being told it was an underwriting condition at outset and HBOS themselves tell me there is no fact find to support the sale of my mortgage, no affordability checks on file and no obligatory FSA compliance check list.
In addition I strongly suspect,
  • HBOS’s in house valuer rubber stamped an overly high valuation of our property because they were told we purchased the property in 2004 for £890,000 despite HBOS’s own in house solicitors’ file for its conveyance clearly stating we purchased our house in 2000 for £250,000
  • And, for reasons HBOS are unprepared to share, it appears HBOS removed our broker from their panel during the underwriting process of our mortgage and as a result of this it is highly likely that the execution of our mortgage deed constituted an unauthorized sale. If this proves to be the case, the contract HBOS believe they have with us is void.
Satisfied this evidence of HBOS wrong doing would give the FOS nowhere to hide, I hoped my efforts would finally secure me the long overdue and thorough investigation my case deserves.

This is my FOS adjuducator’s response;

Dear [Life after Debt],

“Thank you for your email and attachment of 28 January 2014. As confirmed in my email of the same date I am responding to your attached letter.
Having reviewed its contents I’m afraid I have very little to add to my position on your complaint, as outlined in my opinion letter of 13 November 2013. While I take into account all of the comments you have made, our service’s role is to concentrate on what we believe are the main and relevant issues in your case. As an impartial organisation we do not take instruction from either party as it is for us to decide what evidence we consider is necessary and relevant to our investigation.”

Furthermore my adjudicator informs me,
  • My broker could not be deemed to have been over incentivised to sell me an unsuitable mortgage as I signed in agreement to him receiving his fee
  • It is not reasonable for me to claim over valuation now when I had no objection to the valuation the surveyor gave at the time and,
  • Because the original application form shows a level of income which is sufficient to support the mortgage applied for, he "considers be fair and in line with good industry practice..."
Needless to say I have, by way of an appeal, asked for my case to be referred to an Ombudsman for a ruling. I can only hope he/she has a more comprehensive understanding of mortgage complaints than my current adjudicator.

Economics graduate, former radio, film and television actor and 40th US president Ronald Reagan once said,” Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for existing” and if this is truly the case then what, I wonder, is our government’s excuse for the existence of a toothless and grossly incompetent Financial Ombudsman Service who actively dismiss the legitimate complaints of the individual while condoning the guarded lies and excuses of a corrupt banking industry?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Truth and Truman

Christof, the fictional allegory of the omnipotent programme maker in TheTruman  Show once said, “If his was more than just a vague ambition, if [Truman] was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him” and as I enter my sixth year of battling  with HBOS over my miss sold mortgage and its resulting £217,000 shortfall, I can not help but wonder  if  I too have unwittingly secured a  leading role in my own real life reality show. If only a little more effort and absolute determination was all it would take to unearth the truth and nothing but the whole truth about the underwriting of my HBOS mortgage.

To date, despite my best efforts, I am still without copies of  the mandatory compliance documents which should have accompanied the sale of my HBOS mortgage and all I have to show for my endeavours is yet another notch on my FOS complaints file as a result of the second complaint I have lodged, and won, against yet another biased and incompetent Financial Ombudsman adjudicator.  However, I am delighted to report that my absolute determination to confront and overturn the FOS’s unfair ruling has rewarded me with the following:
·         An investigation into the actions of the adjudicator who made the ruling in favour of HBOS without allowing me to submit further evidence
·         An apology from the FOS adjudicator for repeatedly ignoring my emails over a period of three months
·         A  retraction of the unfair FOS ruling of  November 2013
·         An extension until  31 January 2014  to allow me time to submit my additional evidence

With a traumatic year and an unwelcome house move firmly behind me it appears absolute determination in 2014 has afforded  me some more very welcome news. I am now in receipt of a very apologetic letter from HBOS stating a copy of my mortgage conveyance file  is finally on its way as well as very welcome notification from the Information Commissioner's Office  to advise me  HBOS is shortly to be investigated for failing to supply me with the compliance documentation  I requested under my DSAR a year ago.

Christof also said,  “I am The Creator - of a television show that gives hope and joy and inspiration to millions” and while I can hardly describe my blog posts or my life as providing hope, joy or inspiration to millions, I, like the viewers of The Truman Show can’t help but be continually wondering, “How [and when] is it going to end?”

Here’s hoping 2014 turns out to be a happy and peaceful one for us all.