Saturday, 31 December 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Putting the hectic school routine behind me for what will amount to almost a month and consigning my HBOS battling files to a cupboard for a similar period, has meant I have finally been able to turn my attentions to preparations for our much anticipated family focused Christmas. However, being someone who has always enjoyed the pleasure of giving, Christmas continues to prove challenging on this front due to our much reduced financial circumstances. Taking solace in the middle eastern proverb that suggests, “If you have much, give your wealth and if you have little, give your heart” I have endeavoured to do the very best I can with the limited resources available to me by applying a completely different approach to our festive celebrations which makes good use of both my heart and my head.

In the past I would have purchased Christmas wreaths, garlands and table decorations to decorate my home and give to my friends. However this year, instead of parting with any hard earned cash in exchange for these wholesome signs of Christmas, I held a table decoration making lunch for a few of my friends and neighbours. Because foliage arrived with each guest and (courtesy of the M & S waste-sale) I was able to supply the receptacles for our floral masterpieces along with a light lunch, I was also able to create an abundance of decorative displays for no financial outlay.  In addition, my children were kept cheerfully and productively entertained by this hive of kitchen industry which  turned a thrift driven exercise into wonderfully social pre- Christmas event that all those who attended are keen to repeat next year. My home has never been better dressed and friends to whom I have gifted my hand made creations have been delighted with a caringly constructed illustration of just how much I value them.  



In the past I would have not only made a Christmas cake but I would also have bought only the best cuts of meat along with a variety of luxury Christmas produce to share with family and friends over the festive period. This year a close friend arrived mid December with a beautifully decorated Christmas cake she commissioned her daughter in law to make me as a gift and, instead of competing with the supermarket crowds, I have managed to ear mark and freeze M & S waste sale produce over the past few weeks for consumption during the festive period. By avoiding the madness of pre-Christmas shoppers,  not only have I had time to create homemade Christmas fair that has ensured all our  guests have been fed like Kings, but I have achieved this without any extra expense.



In the past I would have tried to fulfil the majority of the requests on my children’s lengthy Christmas lists and yet still regularly failed to deliver something I had not realised they had set their hearts on. This year just as I have done over the past two, I managed my children’s expectations by reminding them of our reduced circumstances in an effort to avoid disappointment.  I asked relatives to gift them money rather than presents and promised my children an opportunity to spend it in the January sales in ensure purchases of even greater value. This has left me free to buy five children and six grandchildren a few inexpensive trinkets I know they will enjoy and in so doing resulted in a happier and more balanced attitude to present giving all round.

And,

In the past I would have happily thrown several pounds at a time into the charitable collection buckets found on every corner during the run up to Christmas.  However, for three years consecutive years I have squirmed in discomfort at my inability to help the less fortunate in any way. Nevertheless, this year my husband and I received the most heart warming opportunity of all time and it gave us the chance to do something positive for those people who, unlike us, will not be sharing in a family focused Christmas this year. Thanks to the compassion of one M & S manager who, no doubt, was equally as disgusted my husband by the mountains of un-purchased fresh turkey he had been instructed to throw away, my husband was permitted to have a trolley full for our personal use. It was in this way we were able, at eleven o’clock on Christmas Eve, to redirect twenty of the thousands of M & S turkeys destined for disposal as compost, to the kitchens for the homeless via a friend.

Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.”

I am hoping, thanks to my husband’s efforts, a little humanitarian Christmas spirit and several Marks and Spencer’s turkeys, several hundred truly poverty stricken individuals far less fortunate that ourselves will benefit from a hot meal this Christmas.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Rot and Regulators

Marcus Aurelius once said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth” and having opened an email from the Ombudsman’s adjudicator, I am endeavouring to focus on the wisdom of this Ancient Roman Emperor’s as I contemplate my appointed FOS representative’s thinly veiled words of contempt for my fourteen page letter asking for her help.
While the FSA are happy to spend tax payers money by the million on “shaped” investigative reports that avoid holding RBS executives to account and David Cameron continues to trade on his selective Christian principals to explain how “quick [he] has been to forgive the bankers” along with his “biblical” reasons for not seeking retribution, it seems evident the circling of waggons to protect the select few is high on the Financial Ombudsman’s Service’s agenda too. I have grown used to the obstructive attitude of the complaints business as a result of my pursuit of a full, formal and detailed investigation into the unnecessary forced sale of my home by HBOS.

Since I initially contacted the FOS for their help in April 2011 I have been told,

·       They “cannot interfere with the commercial judgement of a business” despite the fact that it clearly states on their web-based consumer fact sheet that, “In some ways we are like a court of law- and our Ombudsmen are like judges.”

·       It is not their job to look back at a situation “with the benefit of hindsight” and change the outcome in spite of their consumer fact sheet stating, where an individual has lost out because of a business’s actions, “we can tell the business what to do to put things right”.

·       They cannot see how “exactly [I] expected [HBOS] to contact me directly” with regard to the mortgage arrears that led to repossession of my home even though I have on good authority HBOS have a legally binding “duty of care” to me in this respect.

·       They cannot see “how it would have been possible for [me] to have dealt with these arrears on my own even if [HBOS] had managed to contact [me] directly” or make use of this information to avoid the repossession of my family home, despite in clearly stating in the HBOS Mortgage Conditions Booklet that letting an HBOS mortgaged property is an option albeit “with the lenders permission”. In fact the FSO’s own technical note explains, in detail, how they investigate a complaint about premature or unnecessary repossession.

·       They “cannot see there is anything to be gained by addressing each of the points within my complaint individually” even though it clearly states in their fact sheet they “don’t take sides and always take a fresh look at the situation.”
Yesterdays FSO correspondence now states,
·        “As [HBOS] initially stated that the complaint was outside of the Financial Ombudsman's jurisdiction, it is likely that this element will need to be dealt with first [and] as such it is likely to be sometime until this is finalised” and my case passed on to an Ombudsman for investigation.
Astounded by the throwing of an HBOS favouring spanner into the works and further outraged because I believed I had addressed the issue of juristiction and laid it to rest at outset, I cannot pretend to be surprised I have unearthed yet more evidence of regulatory tolerance for banker’s criminality. Furthermore I was  completely unprepared to find the Financial Ombudsman Service would, like HBOS’s own complaints department, be unashamed of their tainted allegiances and unrepentant for their acts of discrimination against me to the extent they would put it in writing.

Having compiled my reply I remain in wait, once again, in the hope my HBOS compliant will  receive the airing I believe it deserves while I marvelling at those who believe we are best served by watered down banking reform and regulation. With David Cameron descibing himself as an intermittent but practising Christian who allows himself to “ignore the biblical passages concerning the sick and the poor”  there is little wonder the way is left clear for our regulators to feel empowered to protect the favoured few.  Bureaucratic endorsement of regulatory apathy and injustice for the majority not only ignores basic human values in favour of supporting the prosperity of the self appointed elite but the self-interest of government driven directives to forgive the criminal actions of the casino bankers avoids their prosecution and leaves their swag bags bloated an untouched.

Thomas Jefferson once said,“ Is it less dishonest to do what is wrong because it is not expressly prohibited by written law?” I for one cannot imagine this is a conundrum the greedy bankers, David Cameron or his puppet regulators spend any time whatsoever deliberating over. For the favoured few the law, government guidelines and codes of conduct created for the benefit of the greater good are completely irrelevant.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Needs Must

Emperor Claudius (10 BC- 54 AD) once said “beware, lest in your anxiety to avoid war, you obtain a master” and I appreciate a potential Eurozone collapse together with endless examples of regulatory incompetence in the banking sector means  I will certainly not be alone when it comes to locking horns on every front as I battle against the banks while simultaneously maintaining equilibrium in a life where I have made responsibility to my family my master.
Fully aware there is no such thing as a free lunch when I accepted three bursaries for my youngest daughter and two son’s private education, it was no surprise to discover I had sold my soul to my children’s school when I agreed to become the Chairman of the Friends Committee. This term so far I have given a recruiting speech to parents of the whole school, written the text for the Friends website and school magazine, hosted a quiz night with a sit down meal for thirty and organised fund raising stalls, refreshments and a disco at the schools bonfire night function.

In addition to this I have implemented and run a Christmas Market for twenty stall holders where there were hundreds of children, parents and local people in attendance.

For this event alone I have been required to,

·        supply, print and distribute the advertising material without spending any money

·        plan and set up tables, seating, music and Christmas decorations for the event without any guidance

·        spend thirteen hours on my feet meeting a veritable plethora of Friends and market traders needs with very little assistance

·        referee helpers enlisted to sell refreshments and raffle tickets while thwarting all power struggles and keeping ruffled feathers to minimum

·        eat humble pie as a method of damage limitation when dealing with traders who didn’t check vehicular access to our event in the hope they are not tempted to blacken the school’s reputation because of their own oversights.

During the same period I have written, another letter of complaint, this time to the Department of Energy and Climate Change in response to their ten page letter to me dismissing my case for provision of a new boiler under the governments Energy SavingTrust scheme.

Once again I have,

·        told them they are wrong not to uphold my case of eligibility

·        reminded them their administrative shortcomings should not result in my being disadvantaged

·        requested they send me a copy of the heating and insulation guidelines that were in place at the time of my application

·        enlisted the help of my local MP to ensure I am provided with a meaningful response.

On top of this, and ever hopeful that the regulatory authorities will eventually step up to the mark in my case against HBOS,  I also have emailed the FOS this week, this time to tell them that according to their latest letter they have,

·        set up a third reference number for my Bank of Scotland complaint that bares no reference to my ongoing dealings with them

·        returned my 14 page letter  to me (which cost me £5.90 to send them by registered post), with a new complaint application form

·        still not replied to this self same letter, which they originally insisted should reach them no later than 7 November or else not be proceeded with  

And,
Faced with over whelming fury on the part of my eldest child (now age thirty four), I have endeavoured to use the best of my literary skills to explain a decision I made twenty three years ago when, at the age of thirty, I chose to keep the details of my first husband’s paranoid schizophrenia and subsequent suicide from our then eleven and eight year old daughters.  At the time I spoke only of his passing.

They say the hardest battle ever to be fought is the one in which you try to be yourself. Ever mindful that I am not a failure just because I continue to fail, I take solace in the fact that “continuing to try” is my success. For this reason I have decided it is time to focus on living simply, loving kindly and caring deeply. With this in mind and for the time being at least, my battles can wait until after I have mastered the fast approaching and much anticipated family Christmas.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Lemmings and lethargy

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the assumption that it takes place” and I have to admit that the last few days have proved successful communication is most definitely the exception rather than the rule.

This week I have endeavoured to,

·        Acquire M&S vouchers I have been allocated as part of a marketing promotion only to be told I have already received them

·        Repair my car via my insurance following a “no fault accident” after two months of waiting only to be repeatedly told I have still have to pay the excess

·        Secure a bursary figure from my daughter’s prospective senior school only to be told, for reasons they were not at liberty to disclose, they are unable to provide one at present  

·        Persuade my sixteen year old son to secure me an appointment with his Maths “re-sit” teacher on parents evening to be told by him that re-sit students do not have tuition or teachers

·        Explain to the Financial Ombudsman’s adjudicator that they must have received my reply concerning my HBOS complaint because they have not only acknowledged its receipt by letter but have also signed for it on its delivery by registered post

Knowing full well that, “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way”, I have since discovered;  

·        M & S voucher distributors would prefer to accuse me of theft than admit they have not done their job

·        Motor insurance claim departments have absolutely no sense of urgency and must now join the ranks of my ever increasing list of letters of complaint

·        Acquiring background information as to how, why and to whom bursaries for education are awarded from a neighbouring and competing independent school, has encouraged my daughter’s prospective school to revisit their decision to with hold the original level of bursary they were prepared to make available for my daughter's education

·        Emailing my son’s sixth form tutor not only reveals a completely different interpretation of the academic commitment required to improve an AS Maths grade at re-sit from that of my son's but it has also highlighted a distinct lack of pro-activeness on his part

·        Putting the FSO’s administrative shortcomings in writing, quoting times and dates of supporting documentary evidence has had my adjudicator hopping around in snooty embarrassment while suggesting my case in referred to her superior rather than make any further fobs off's herself

Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Never ascribe malice to that which can be better described as incompetence” and as I strive daily for a conscious competence that will carry me through my battle with HBOS, combat the disinterest of the Financial Ombudsman Service and help me make the most of our reduced financial circumstances for the sake of my family, I cannot help lament the lack of mindful leadership that has left me dealing with more than my fair share of lemmings this week. While I accept that experience has always proved to be a brutal but effective teacher, I can only hope by learning from yesterday and yet continuing to live for today I will eventually achieve results that will provide hope for our future.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sick and Tired

I recently read that representing an investment banker is not unlike being a street-sweeper at a parade. Not only does it involve watching an endless procession of horse’s arses but one is also responsible for clearing up the mess they make.  Now that Lloyds Banking Group’s Antonio Horta Osorio has recently stepped back from his role of Chief Executive Officer only eight months after his golden hello of £8.3 million; I cannot help but wonder whether the stress of spending his days clearing up the legacy of his predecessor’s mountainous piles of crap have resulted in his health’s undoing.

In spite of one person's suggestion it is the numerous letters of complaint I have sent for his personal attention that have finally pushed Mr Osorio over the edge, my gut feeling is this tennis playing, green tea drinking lawyer’s son has gone medically a-wall for reasons, whatever they may be, which have very little to do with my persecution at the hands of HBOS.  I do not doubt, however, it will be a great comfort for him to know, unlike the many individuals who have been suffering relentless levels of stress at the hands of Lloyds owned HBOS, he has another £15 million coming his way out of the 41% taxpayer owned banking coffers whether he does another days work at Lloyds or not.

Hermocratis once said, “An abundance of gold and silver, makes war, like other things, go smoothly” and I can only hope, in this case, “other things” don’t just apply to Mr Horta Osorio’s personal finances whilst on sick leave.  Without him at the helm, market confidence has already cost Lloyds share holders a £1 billion in fallen share values while a 21% drop in profits for the last quarter takes Lloyds Banking Group’s trading losses for the last nine months down to an unhealthy £3.9 billion.

So, while I wait, penniless and in moderate health to hear how my fourteen page letter of complaint to the Ombudsman’s service is received, it seems that Lloyds Banking Group also wait penniless and in moderate health for a favourable outcome to Horta Osorio’s untimely exodus.  In my case, however, having lost everything three years ago because of HBOS recklessness, I only have the potential for gain whilst it appears on this occasion it is the “ too big to fail” Lloyds Banking Group who have everything to lose.

Now there’s a thought.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Rot and Romans

Roman senator and historian Cornelius Tacitus once said, "A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of a few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all" and while I continue to smart from the lack of impartiality, unbridled prejudice and misplaced assumptions of the Financial Ombudsman’s Service towards my HBOS complaint, I cannot help but wonder how much more acquiescence I, along with the “ Occupy” protesters worldwide, am expected to endure at the hands of financial regulatory impotence.

Hearing that St Paul’s Cathedral’s backers are dominated by banking interests worth more than £450 billion, 60% of its financial supporters are linked to finance and a large proportion of the trustees have a direct interest in investment banking, it is little wonder the church, like the politicians whose campaign funding relies on the favours of the corporate elite, are dithering as to which side of the fence they wish to sit on in this high profile battle for an ethical economy. It is also unsurprising to find the Corporation of the City of London’s weapon of choice for the dissolution of the Occupy St Paul’s protesters is health and safety. It is however, nothing short of infuriating to witness the ease with which a mere handful of people are able to put the wheels in motion to guard against a perceived danger via health and safety legislation when it is compared with the softly softly approach that has so far been adopted by regulators and governments alike in the face of an actual, and ongoing, global financial crisis. It is nothing short of ludicrous in the light of widespread public outcry for an urgent solution to halt the banking and corporate elites continued looting of the worlds economy.

After reading both HBOS whistle blower Paul Moore’s article, along with that of former banker John Fullerton, both of which vehemently support the need for a return to an economy where “finance is its servant and not its master”, it is clear that a winter of discontent is not only on the cards for the Occupy movement but it is also on the lips and in the hearts of a collective that is not on the steps of St Paul’s and neither is it outside the New York stock exchange. This cry “for the greed and self interest of the minority to be put aside in favour of an economy that promotes a more equitably shared prosperity and respects the physical limits of our planet” seems to be on the lips of an ever increasing number of individuals.

I, for one, sincerely hope my reply to the Financial Ombudsman’s adjudicator in which I request she adhere to FSO's words of intent as stated in their own mission statement will play its part in facilitating a regulatory change. Regulatory change that not only prevents the sweeping of the 99%’s interests under the carpet in favour of keeping the rich and powerful sweet but instead takes those responsible to task and passes judgement on them in a real and consequential manner.

Tacitus also said, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws”. So I wish to declare that I, housewife and mother of five, grandmother of six, Chairman of the Friends of my children's school and debt fighter extraordinaire, with the help of my trusty friend and confidant Chris (mother of one) plan to make sure these numerous laws are used to serve and protect me from the corrupt. For this reason my fourteen page letter to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service took Chris and I three whole days to write. I can't imagine the FOS are going to have much fun reading it but I live in hope that, at the very least, it starts the meaningful dialogue for which I have waited so long.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blissful budgets

Ever mindful that my children’s school holidays should focus on quality family time and not my battle with the banks, it is always my intention to keep my ongoing traumas to within the hours that my children are at school. I believe strictly adhering to this regime for the past three years has not only enabled me to compartmentalise “my work” at the debt fighting coal face at a safe distance from family life, but it has also preserved my sanity, my strength and secured the re-growth of my hair.

Carefully planning my tiny half term budget to attain maximum reward from an income that amounts to little more than 15% of that which we enjoyed before the demise of my husband’s property business I have,

·        Entertained friends and family on a number of occasions courtesy of the plentiful and economically helpful M & S staff waste sale

·        Arranged two cinema trips for early morning showings courtesy of pre-purchased and hugely discounted tickets financed by my mother

·        Repeatedly invited my children’s school friends to visit in an effort to breathe new life into our favourite board and card games.

Although our life style has changed dramatically since the days of the pre-credit crunch melt down of the property market, I take pride in the knowledge we have lived without discomfort and within our means since the terrifying loss of 85% of our income and 100% of our assets in 2008. Resigned to the harsh reality we are no closer to paying off the million pound deficit we were left with, I am thankful our losses have not increased and am relieved that all but a handful of our creditors have accepted pursuing us will be costly and futile.

In contrast to the satisfying peace and quiet of my modest life I am acutely aware Occupy Wall Street protesters and right wing Tea party campaigners alike are far from satisfied that the US government is taking any meaningful steps towards cutting its coat according to the available cloth.  Both factions continue to be incensed by an untenable situation created entirely by the greedy casino banker’s courtship of subprime lending. As a consequence of this flawed mortgage business together with their hoodwinking of governments and institutions alike into believing their lending books were, in fact, perfectly safe vehicles for the cautious investor, the subsequent government banking bailouts have taken the US national debt to an unprecedented fifteen trillion dollars leaving this unwieldy super power teetering on the verge of global default.

While US politicians attempt to thrash out a solution to government cash flow issues which, if put in household terms, involve expenditure of nearly twice the budget and with only 10% in cut backs to help balance the books, I have been forced to break my holiday embargo on my own credit crunch war due to one of the very banks who actively tailored their lending portfolio to suit subprime borrowers and then required a government bailout of 3.55 billion dollars in November 2008 because of their recklessness. US based Capital One have not only authorised the sending of three letters to me over this half term period but left me feeling both anxious and confused over their content.

This week alone Capital One tell me they are,

·        Happy to look into why they have been instructed to pursue us in the light of receipt of the copy letter they sent me last year stating their decision was not to pursue us. I am asked to “bare with them” while the matter is investigated.

·        Instructing immediate court action as I have repeatedly failed to communicate with them and have left them no alternative.

·        Employing the services of a doorstep collection agent, an action which I, so say, have brought on myself by making no attempt to respond to their numerous attempts to contact me.

Incensed by three such conflicting pieces of correspondence I rang Capital One’s UK agent and asked them which letter I should regard as an accurate indication of their intentions only to be told it was impossible to know as Capital One do not reply to their letters!

I can only conclude, just like their UK counterparts who also chose to romance subprime lending and create fictitious lending book valuations, Capital One are far too busy to deal with their correspondence.  I have little doubt their days are taken up with counting the benefits of privatising the gains they have secured from their government bailouts while the rest of us mere mortals are left smarting from the global fallout of their nationalised debts.

I was interested to read the words of ancient Roman lawyer and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero who said,

“The budget should be balanced. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt.”

I feel safe to say this is evidence that some things never change.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Winning wills

While I appreciate winning is not everything I understand the will to win most definitely is.  Much to my frustration, and largely due to over-commitment on all fronts, I have recently experienced an overwhelming sense that, on occasion, having the will to win can still prove insufficient to gain the advantage in every battle.

Over the past ten days I have,

·        failed to convince my body I do not have an upper respiratory infection resulting in this unwelcome invader knocking me for six

·        failed to convince my landlord to attend to a list of repairs resulting in the prospect of another winter with extortionate heating bills and very little warmth

·        failed to convince the former Treasurer of the Friends to furnish me with much needed banking information resulting in pure guesswork when it came to the allocating of this year’s funds at our meeting

·        failed to work out an economically sound method for my teenage son to travel, via public transport, to an open day at University College London resulting in a seven hour road trip by car

·        failed to convince the Financial Ombudsman to view HBOS’s actions as both negligent and pivotal to the resulting mortgage shortfall I am now saddled with.



However, knowing success is not wholly dependant on drive and persistence while fatigue can make cowards of us all I sent for reinforcements when it came to the assembly of my team for the school quiz.

Carefully selecting friends who have been supportive and uplifting during the darkest hours of my HBOS ordeals, my unassuming band of debt fighting warriors threw aside the trappings of battle to engage in an evening’s intellectual frivolity of fish and chip fuelled entertainment.  Although brows were periodically furrowed in contemplation, we laughed and dined the evening away in untroubled camaraderie and in so doing melted my failures of the preceding days  into insignificance. The by product of this meeting of minds over a school quiz and a few beers was......

We won!

On hearing American baseball player Michael Jordan words,

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

I realise every road to success is littered with failures of the past. However, it has become evident from the success of our quiz team efforts that the individual’s commitment to a group effort is precisely what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work ,

And,

I am also convinced it will eventually be what makes my battle with HBOS work.

In recognition of this invaluable and ongoing solidarity I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my appreciation of not only my fellow quiz team members, but also every kind and caring individual who has so readily given their time and their expertise over the past three years to ensure I remain on my road to success in spite of my failures.

I extend my heart felt thanks to each and every one of you.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Rights and Wrongs

It appears that George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, “The golden rule is there are no rules,” but knowing this does not make it any less disappointing to find that the Financial Ombudsman Service is upholding Shaw’s theory in regard to my case against HBOS.

The problem with rules are they only work when we all agree to abide by them and it is on days like this I am reminded of just how insignificant my one woman battle of the banks is to anyone but me. Although I have always hoped that my decision to fight HBOS would give me an opportunity to be heard, I never pretended to think my personal plight would be of sufficient interest to make National Headlines or make an impact on banking policy.  I did, however, battle on in the belief that by going through the right channels, remaining persistent and keeping to the rules I would eventually be able to reveal HBOS as negligent in their duty of care to me and brutish in their pursuit of a debt they chose to create and saddle me with.

I hoped my refusal to be swept under the carpet like so many other HBOS misdemeanours might eventually shame them into acting with compassion and integrity. I thought quoting the rules and the guidelines laid down by their own governing bodies would force them into reconsidering the merits of pursuing a mortgage shortfall of £217,000 that they chose to create and hoped it might prevent them wasting more time and money bullying me for something I do not have. I believed the Financial Ombudsman’s Service would help me seek HBOS explanations to my questions about their negligent procedures, discriminatory actions and reluctance to follow guidelines.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I was completely unprepared to find that the Ombudsman’s reply, although very sympathetic, was not unlike a reply I received from HBOS’s former debt collecting agent Merrils Ede.  In both letters I am told it is not necessary to answer my questions regarding HBOS’s duty of care or their flaunting of FSA and government guidelines. The inference is I am merely wasting my time and theirs and moreover should be grateful of the eighteen months respite from debt collecting HBOS harassment for which they have already secured an offer.

So here I am again, back on the self same precipice but this time even more astounded that discriminatory practices and negligence are not something anyone, including the Financial Ombudsman, feel able or willing to comment on.

Realising I have not only been baring my soul to a toothless Financial Ombudsman but also an Ombudsman who is most definitely not neutral I am now faced with a very big question.

What do I do next?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Disgruntled Devils


Against the back drop of David Cameron’s “Let them eat cake guidance,” amidst declarations that the coalition has the bankers under control and while UK individuals are reported to be falling by the financial wayside to the tune of 334 people a day, I have managed to acquire a week of personal hell that has nothing to do with being the victim of a global economic crisis.

In an effort to indentify my adversary it would be,

·        wrong to conclude that I have suffered an overload of Friends work due to three committee meetings, one coffee morning and the horrors of preparing and giving a speech to the parents at Harvest Festival.

·        misguided to believe I have again fallen foul of the locking of marketing committe horns whilst endeavouring to solicit structure to their plans to promote the school

·        inaccurate to assume exhaustion from discussions to;
            over haul the schools corporate identity and website,
            explore the merits of hosting a cultural day of music as a marketing tool,  
            launch my plan for a Bollywood dinner dance for the Friends spring fund raiser.

·        incorrect to surmise I am overwhelmed with the organisational duties of a Friends Quiz night, a Bonfire Celebration or a Christmas Craft Fair supporting local industry all hosted in  my children's school

·        totally without grounds to conclude I am impatient of my sometimes lengthy duties in attendance of my elderly mother’s dental needs, shopping trips or visits to a nursing home to see her friend,

·        mistaken to believe it is correspondence from resurfacing creditors breaking their months of  agreed silence on compassionate grounds only to declare their newly formulate intentions to implement debt recovery immediately.

and
  ·        erroneous to decide it is two letters from the Ombudsman, the first warning of a twelve week delay for my Lloyds complaint that refutes the default status of a ficticious payment arrangement and the second advising me my adjudicator is still on holiday so will be unable to deal with my eight page reply defending my HBOS complaint.

It would, however, be entirely correct to assume my week on hot coals has stemmed from the discovery my super-bright sixteen year old son is predicting a grade C in A level Psychology which may well preclude him from obtaining a place at the university of his choice. Indignant at the lack of his tutor’s foresight and with no inkling of any contrition, he remains in denial that this blemish on his hitherto astonishingly good academic record has been anything to do with him.

Repeatedly amused by John Clarke and Bryan Dawe’s U Tube postings portraying bankers behaving like disgruntled children did not prepare me to for the image of my teenage boy behaving very much like a disgruntled banker. The outcome of this irresponsible attitude, not unlike like the state of the economy, has been anything but a joke!

Determined not to rest on my laurels despite fierce adolensent opposition I have;

negotiated a reprieve by securing him a chance to improve his predicted grade over half term,

declared him unavailable for work at his part time lifeguard job with immediate effect,

curtailed his socialising and imposed an internet/face book curfew until this matter is in hand.

For these acts of educational concern and unsolicited interference I am now viewed, as some would also say of the Wall street protestors, a demonic and overly dramatic hysteric.

Thankfully I can take solace in the knowledge that although heaven is said to have the best weather, hell is reputed to have the best company and if Devil Woman is a disposition I must maintain to expose the banks, avoid compromising my integrity and save my sons future, at least I and the Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York will have some interesting conversations to look forward to as our reward.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Frustrating rewards

During my early days in the financial services industry I remember being told the level at which one is remunerated is, in general, influenced not only by the expertise of the individual concerned but also by the level of frustration  endured throughout their working day.

While patiently awaiting the imminent opening of a retail superstore this morning, I was amused to hear a gentleman behind me say they were ten seconds late in unlocking the doors.  Hearing these pedantic words prompted me to take stock of the ongoing delays my own fruitless efforts have encountered recently and left to me conclude the acquisition of any reward is not without its frustrations,

This week alone I have endeavoured to,

·        Deliver my ten year old son to a paint ball party only to have my car driven into while stationary

·        Go out for coffee with a friend only to have my windscreen shattered from a stone thrown up by a speeding police car

·        Tidy my sixteen year old son’s pit of a bedroom only to injure my back   

·        Wear the only remaining piece of gold jewellery I own only to lose it

And

·        Accept the offer of a garden shed and tumble dryer from my parents who lives two hundred miles away only to find a daily conversation with the courier is getting me nowhere.

Reluctant do anything for fear of seeing more of my well intentioned efforts unravel,  I took a moment to reflect on my frustrations and while doing so remembered that also during this week I have been,

·        Gifted a beautiful set of patio furniture from which I can enjoy the wonderful Indian summer that has come our way,

·        Accepted three invitations to dinner and lunch from friends

·        Received a “new to me” winter coat I couldn’t like more had I chosen and purchased it myself

·        Acquired two shelves of beautifully bound literary classics for my son to aid him in his English Literature degree next year

·        Received a link to a spoof website that lightened my mood immensely

And

·        Received an apologetic phone call from my overworked courier to make arrangements to collect and deliver the long awaited, and to date impossible to acquire, shed.

Knowing all too well success is a road that is always under construction this week’s frustrations have illustrated that if my ship doesn’t come in immediately, it isn’t always necessary to spend every last ounce of energy swimming out to meet it. Sometimes, a tide on the turn together with a fair wind will achieve some satisfying results and leave me, like my adjudicator from the Financial Ombudsman’s Service, with a few days off before returning to minor daily irritations, and her with two weeks holiday ahead of her before she has to address the questions I have posed about HBOS in my eight page letter .

Monday, 26 September 2011

Disproportionate benefits

"Voltaire once said, “The art of the government is to make two thirds of a nation pay all it possibly can for the benefit of the other third” and it is clear from Simon Duke’s Mail On line piece  that Eric Daniels has benefited immensely from an initiative of this kind.

While the government led and tax payer fed bale out for LLoyds Banking Group remains 9.3bn in the red, largely due to the gross misconduct of HBOS's risk mismanagement strategy, ousted Daniels former HBOS CEO has succeeded in adding to last year’s total remuneration package of 2.57 million pounds by securing a further £561,000 over the last nine months for doing absolutely nothing. With a pension fund of 5.03million pounds to look forward and an income of £210,000 per anum set aside for Daniels' retirement, it is clearly very "nice work if you can get it".

In contrast, I , along with many other HBOS victims, have repeatedly been told by Eric Daniels’ Executive office to face up to financial responsibilities and repay shortfalls created as a direct result HBOS's flawed business strategy because legal and contractual rights are all that counts and a duty of care to a customer is irrelevant. Beyond legally enforcable morally obligations, HBOS are at liberty to pursue not only me but many other trusting individuals who have fallen foul of a unique and detrimental interpretation of their fair business practises while HBOS's 
bureaucracy and red tape continue to be this errant banker's customers whipping boy. Discharged HBOS Chief Executive, Eric Daniels on the other hand has not only remained cushioned from the economic recession by the obscene bonuses of the past but until recently he has continued to be financially rewarded for his part in bringing both HBOS and Lloyds bank to near destruction.

Incensed by the unaccountability of the untouchable HBOS Executives who wish to inflict the consequences of their actions on their customers, I have,

·        Fine tuned my Ombudsman’s reply of eight pages in the hope they may support my arguments and bare its teeth on my behalf.

·        Submitted another complaint to the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority informing them of further misdemeanours on the part of HBOS agents, Merrils Ede Solicitors.
Ever hopeful there is someone of consequence left at HBOS who believes,“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers and not the enrichment of the leaders” I, along with unprecedented numbers of other FOS complainants now wait for an outcome which favours us for a change and not just the banking fat cats. In reality I can't help thinking.....fat chance.