Saturday, 30 July 2011

High Anxiety

While EU politicians deliberate over how best to prop up the Italian economy's 1.8 trillion euro debt mountain, a Tuscany vine yard owner told Ian Fraser “all that matters is family, good wine, good food and sex” and having recently read former Chief Executive of HBOS, Andy Horby has decided to take time off from corporate life, I am beginning to wonder if it is because he too shares the Tuscan vineyard owner’s views.

According to Rupert Steiner in the Mail online, Hornby has experienced a tense five years from which he has required a much needed four month stress free break before make a career move into gambling, this time at the helm of Coral the bookmakers. To facilitate this, former employer Alliance Boots, the firm behind Boots the Chemist, has seen fit to make him a payout of ”£842,000 in salary, a £750,000 bonus, a £337,000 pension payment plus £41,000 in other benefits” on his departure. In addition the firm’s accounts also reveal Hornby was paid an additional £450,000 as compensation for not being allowed to join a rival health care company where he would have been at liberty to divulge Boots secrets.

It is said Andy Hornby is in need of a "sabbatical" because he has been “a worried man who cannot concentrate on anything” and having suffered from extreme levels of debt related stress throughout the last few years myself, I can certainly appreciate exactly how this feels. However although the nation is understandably still up in arms with regard to Hornby’s contribution to the collapse of HBOS and the cost of the subsequent government rescue, my question is not directly related to this. Instead I wish to know about what it is that Andy Hornby has been worrying?
·        Is it the worry of a guilty man who is hoping he will not be discovered and, like some former HBOS employees, face the consequences with a prison sentence?

·        Is it the worry of a bought man who is between a rock and hard place because his silence has been purchased?

·        Is it the worry of a patriotic man who wishes he hadn’t played a part in bringing this country to its economic knees?

·        Or maybe, it is the worry of a man who knows I, and many more like me, have lost their homes, their health and their livelihoods as direct a result of risk management policies he supported.
Of course, I cannot begin to guess the real trigger for Andy Hornby’s worries, but in the unlikely event the latter is true, then, as far as I am concerned, absolution is simple. If Andy Hornby would just tell someone of influence in his “ old boy’s” net work that I genuinely have no means with which to repay a mortgage shortfall of £217,000 which was created by HBOS unnecessarily requesting the forced  sale of my home in 2008, I might be able to get agreement to a write off and then I could enjoy some much needed stress free time myself. 

Assuming Mr Hornby could help me get his HBOS successors to listen, I would happily forgive him the legacy of financial persecution he left behind for me when he ran for hills leaving my family and I to suffer the consequences of his board’s reckless policies towards lending and heartless directives for the people caught up in its aftermath.Unfortunately I cannot speak for the many other individuals who have suffered at the hands of an HBOS led by Andy Hornby. However, my philosophy has always been to endeavour to consume ones elephants a little bit at time and helping me could well be the first mouthful of redeeming humble pie and absolution for the allegedly stress troubled Mr Hornby as he takes up the reins in another career based on a gamble.
They say love looks forward, hate looks back and anxiety has eyes all over its head. Having been in the grips of anxiety over the welfare of my family’s future since the very beginning of the economic downturn I have come to believe worry is most definitely interest paid on trouble due before it arrives. If this is the case  I can only hope Andy Hornby’s pockets are very deep.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Guilty Secrets

One hundred years ago Theodore Roosevelt said, “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people” and as I catch up on my reading with the blogs of journalist Ian Fraser and Stop HBOS campaigner Nicolette Turner, I am provided with yet more evidence to support Roosevelt’s statement.
It appears that Thames Valley Police’s plan to limit their enquiries into the HBOS Reading scandal means they will not be investigating any high level corporate involvement of former HBOS executives despite ongoing allegations of in house fraud at board level. While victims of the HBOS Reading scandal are naturally up in arms about this decision, ex- HBOS risk management executive and whistle-blower Paul Moore has expressed additional concerns at the way LLoyds Bank is responding to this investigation.
Moore said,” I have even been told by very reliable sources that Lloyds Banking Group is not voluntarily offering to help the police with their enquiries. If this is so, it is scandalous. This alleged fraud is a matter of extreme public importance and interest and it is vital that parliament keeps very close eye on how the police and the FSA are doing their jobs and working together with what is going on, through the Treasury Select Committee and the Justice Committee.”
As ever, when it comes to power and money, smoke and mirrors seem to be the first line of defense.  Learning that at least fifty five people have lost their livelihoods along with their companies, as a result of the dishonesty within HBOS, I can’t help wondering how I am ever going to harvest any success in my battle with Lloyds and HBOS myself.  Nicolette Turner and her fellow victims of the HBOS Reading fraud have fought for years with very little success in spite of police involvement and repeatedly lobbying both past and present governments for help.
Today I took two of my children for an eye test and when my ten year old son, always ready with an impromptu question, asked the optician,” What is the most disgusting thing you have ever seen?”  I found myself searching for a subject that would sit at the top of my own “most disgusting” leader board.  I concluded the following,

·        Self-indulgence to the detriment of others

·        Absence of integrity

·        Not taking responsibility for ones actions

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt’s niece Eleanor, “In the long run we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends and the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” As the wife of an individual whose business failed due to the economic climate and the simultaneous demise of both Heritable Bank and the property development market I am, according to HBOS, supposed to accept that I am jointly and severely liable for the choices my husband made even though HBOS aided my husband’s decision to keep me financially in the dark.
However, when it comes to Lloyds and HBOS executives, it is evident that they are totally unprepared to embrace their responsibilities with integrity and are pleading that they shouldn’t be held responsible because, allegedly, they were, like me, kept in the dark and unaware of what was going on within their bank. Even though this outrageous double standard is both elitist and downright unfair, there appears to be no governing body prepared to make these "untouchables" accountable. Because of this, social justice is unlikely ever to be attained and the greater good is destined to remain second place to the indulgences of the high ranking corporate individual.
      This I find truly disgusting.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Learning curves

They say that you should learn everything you can from anyone you can because there will always come a time when you need it. Today I couldn’t agree more as I reflect on just how far I have come since first finding out about my husband’s debts all but three years ago.
Having recently returned home from a much needed holiday from my debt fighting duties and chairmanly responsibilties of our recent school Summer Ball, I am now firmly back in harness again on all fronts.
It appears, while I was away, there has been some fallout from the Friends fund raising efforts following our Summer Ball.
·        Our treasurer forgot to pay some of our service providers for the Ball before departing for her holiday abroad

·        The Head’s wife is unhappy that the “thank yous” to all concerned have not been sent out sooner

·        The caterers feel aggrieved that they had to tender for our business  rather than having “cart blanche” to agree their remuneration without commercial comparisons as per previous years.

Whereas once I would have been instantly on the phone to make sure everyone was consoled by me personally and ensured every situation was resolved to the best of my ability regardless of my own energy levels and time constraints, on this occasion I have,

·         Expressed my sympathy to the lady handling the unhappy creditors in the treasure's absence but left her to handle the situation

·         Put an all encompassing “thank you” in the school magazine, without consultation with anyone, to keep the head's wife happy

·         Emailed the caterers to ask them for an appointment in September to discuss next year’s booking in the hope that they redirect their focus to securing future business rather than lamenting their treatment in the past.

In my absence, the postman has also served up a generous helping of debt fighting hassle,

     ·     Merrels Ede have written to explain themselves in a way that is nothing short
          of peculiar

·       Lloyds Bank have demanded I repay their outstanding balance in full and asked again if I wish all future correspondence to be in Braille

·        The Financial Ombudsman has done a complete about turn with regard to my complaint against the Bank of Scotland and written to say she cannot proceed with it unless she has the banks agreement.

Whereas once I would have been quaking in my boots ,head in my hands, defeated by fear and frustration I have,

·       Ignored the Merrils Ede letter in the belief they have only written to me because they feel vulnerable about the numerous complaints I have made to their regulatory authority resulting in very thorough and time consuming investigations of their staff and business practises 

·        Written back to Lloyds TSB in enormous print asking if they would like me to put all future requests for information in Braille in an effort to make it clear to them precisely what I would like from them

·        Told my allocated Financial Ombudsman adjudicator that I disagree with her decision to ask the Bank of Scotland for permission to proceed with my complaint and asked her to explain the thinking that led her to make this unusual propsal

I may not have learned everything there is to learn in the last three tempestuous years but, I have certainly gleaned, in the words of Bertrand Russell, “One of the symptoms of approaching a nervous breakdown is the belief that work is terribly important, and that to take a holiday would bring all kinds all kinds of disaster.” I took eleven days off to recharge debt fighting batteries that had been running at full pelt for almost three years.  I have returned from this welcome break having learnt that, not only will much of what has been going on in my life wait a few days to be resolved but, putting some distance between me and my sometimes overwhelming problems empowers me to take control of the situation more effectively and, in so doing, limit the stressful impact it has on my health.
Learning this lesson has not only rewarded me with a clearer head which hopefully in turn will deliver better results but, after  nearly three years of being completely bald due to stress related alopecia, it appears I am also to be rewarded with almost a full head of hair. At last it is finally showing signs of growing back. For this wonderful development I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

End of terms

My husband never speaks of what he sees, does or feels but only of what he knows. While hovering patiently on the edge of every conversation he listens with intent, void of any expression waiting for a prompt on which to hang his factual download. On finding his mark he pounces with a carefully assembled nugget of information and in an instant, the conversational flow is altered and his audience scrabbles to politely cover the seams.
If asked he would say he is good at social interaction.

I find it both isolating and frustrating that conversing in any other way is alien to him. He continues to treat any question as an effrontery to his integrity leaving me to struggle to understand why how far the airport parking is from the terminal is as an insult simply because he does not know the answer, or why enquiring as to the delivery date of the roaming simcard he has ordered is so contentious.
If asked, he would say that is I who am unable to solicit information without antagonism.
However, it is not his inclination to anger I struggle with most but his frequent and extended periods of silence along with his refusal to engage with any warmth at any time. Last night, at our children’s end of term school concert, was no exception.
The hot and humid summers evening promised to turn the school hall into a sauna but the discomfort that lay ahead did not deter the number of proud parents who decided to attend. Throughout an hour and half of musical recitals I repeatedly turned to my husband to share a smile at the remarkable expertise of the young artists. Not once did he return my glance in acknowledgement let alone reveal a flicker of a smile in return. It is this way I am continually denied the opportunity to share any mutual enjoyment. 
If asked why he behaved in this way he would simply reply that it was not the case and merely my perception.

So, this morning, I sit alone at my kitchen table while my husband occupies another room. My task today is to prepare the papers to wind up our insolvent property development company. Heritable Bank's administrators have now sold all our company assets and thankfully plan to write off our £209,000 company mortgage shortfall. This leaves me at liberty to finally put an end to our company's trading days without creditor objection. While folding the paperwork I consider what is to become of my marriage when my HBOS battle, our last remaining adversary, eventually reaches its conclusion in however many more years to come.
I cannot help but wonder if my husband's retreat into his emotionally impervious shell might have been halted had it not been for the heartless and negligent actions of the HBOS.  Unlike Heritable Banks administrators, HBOS have been unable to show compassion at anytime. Perhaps, my husband's demeanor might have been very different if they had at least allowed us to salvage our home when the economic crisis  turned our property portfolio of 4.5m with equity of £1,200,000 into an overall shortfall of £500,000.
It is during these episodes of loneliness that I begin to doubt my ability to keep my marriage alive and our family together throughout more years of HBOS harassment.  It has become clear to me that if I am unable to save my relationship and our family life, HBOS will have succeeded in taking all that we ever had and all that we had  ever hoped for, and not just our money.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Dead and buried

Finding myself in something of a debt fighting lull as I await the Financial Ombudsman’s findings with regard to my complaint against HBOS, I have used the time to glean as much information as possible about HBOS's dealings to date. To my surprise, my HBOS Harassment page on face book has put me in contact with two other victims of Lloyds and HBOS skulduggery and I have been amazed to hear how much they too have suffered at the hands of this giant, too big to fail institution.

While greatly sympathising with their cases, I cannot pretend to have a full grasp of the detail. However, one thread of commonality runs throughout all. It appears no amount of communicating with HBOS or Lloyds has done anything to encourage these ivory towered bully-boys to either look objectively at what is being disputed nor embark on any remedial action for the sake of the individual.

It would seem HBOS has, for some time, had a reputation for steam rollering legal proceedings towards bankruptcy even when they are fully aware of people’s inability to pay. Reports revealing 8 out of 10 such cases should not ever have reached court in the first place do not appear to deter them and  HBOS are equally happy to bring proceedings to court for debts which are in dispute.  I understand from one lady I spoke to HBOS have attempted to repossess her home, through the courts, twenty two times.  Her dispute involves the Reading branch of HBOS where there is an ongoing police investigation which has resulted in several arrests for fraud.

Having already been taken to court to enable HBOS to obtain a possession order with which they beat through a fire sale on my home, I have been told, on more than one occasion, by Merrils Ede, their appointed solicitors, they plan to start legal proceedings towards bankruptcy because I am unable to pay the £217,000 shortfall that the HBOS instructed fire sale created. Like so many other victims of HBOS out there, it seems to be of no relevance this shortfall is in dispute and I am penniless anyway. Baring in mind how much it costs to action these proceedings I did not, until recently even begin to understand the thinking behind court cases of this nature.

However, I am now wondering if the reasoning behind a course of action such as this is simply an attempt by the individuals within HBOS to avoid losing face. I believe its quite possible I, together with all the other victims of HBOS who have disputes, have become an embarrassing legacy which needs to be dispatched, like cannon fodder, through the courts and then buried under an epitaph of “ bad debtors” in the balance sheets. I can only assume dealing with an individual’s dispute or unrecoverable debts in this way is less embarrassing to those at HBOS who have had a part in our creation and perhaps it is for this reason we have been ear marked for legal persecution. I cannot think what other reason there could be behind blindly spending taxpayers and share-holders money on cases which are doomed from the start to reap no reward.

Antonio Horta Osorio may well have asked his executives to bring out their dead but it is my belief  some of these very same people have in fact decided to bury us alive, on mass, in our trenches, without Antonio Horta Osorio ever knowing.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Poor parenting

It is said the number one fear of most people is public speaking. I was surprised to read that even death is second to this. While I don’t fear death or public- speaking, I do and always have feared failure. To fail in my parental duties is the most excruciating of all.

So far this morning my youngest son, who is now ten, has asked me,

·        How does your body know how long to make your toes?

·        How much water do spiders drink?

·        How many memory sticks would it take to fill a brain?

While endeavouring to answer these questions have I been,

·        packing suitcases for five of us

·        preparing a family Sunday lunch

·        answering my emails regarding the imminent school ball

·        organising my lodgers for when we are away

·        trying to write a blog about Equitable Life and the Halifax

Today’s duties have come hot on the tail of a gruellingly long sports day at which I,

·        sold ice-creams for the Friends in the blistering heat,

·        answered any number of questions from fellow committee members and prospective ball goers

·        recruited a new Vice Chairman  for the Friends

·        prepared and served a picnic for my husband, mother, daughters, sons and grandchildren all of whom came to support my youngest two budding athletes

But in spite of all these examples of a one woman debt fighter and housewife extraordinaire’s ability to succeed, today I forgot to go to my youngest son’s special assembly at which he did his first public speaking.

For this unforgivable act of parental neglect, I am full of regret.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Middle Management Blues

I appreciate expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a nice person is not dissimilar to expecting a bull not to attack because you are a vegetarian and I believe Lloyds and HBOS's perseption of themselves as a bullish concern within the banking industry, has empowered them to feel free to continuously side step my issues with them and bludgeon me with their demands for payment. I am repeatedly told an individual should always be responsible for a debt regardless of how it arose.

I have just read Patrick Jenkins and Sharlene Goff’s  FT article discussing the reasons behind Lloyds shares recently rallying by 9% after a former 30% nose dive when Antonio Horta Osorio spoke of Lloyds problems soon after his appointment. I was interested to learn that renewed confidence has come from Horta Osorio’s announcement that operating costs will be addressed by cutting 15,000 middle management jobs across HBOS and the Lloyds group in order to make 1.5 billion in savings.
My interest in the prospects of soon to be ex-Lloyds and HBOS middle management  employees stems purely from my experiences at their hands as I can only surmise it was to middle management staff Lloyds and HBOS Chief Executives delegated the replies to my many letters asking for their help.
I do not doubt some of these people have had a hand in denying me an opportunity to save my home and  I believe, without question, they instructed Merrils Ede solicitors to pursue me with "sustained contact” despite my C.A.B. proven status as a “can’t pay” but most of all, I am convinced it has been middle management who have repeatedly told me mortgage shortfalls never get written off while insisting HBOS have no intention of ever writing off mine.
I can only assume of the people who are to be made redundant many, like me, will have young children and a mortgage from Lloyds or HBOS.  They, like me, will now be faced with arrears if finding employment is not immediate or in some cases notforthcoming at all. I wonder how they will feel when their peers continue to tow  the Lloyds and HBOS company line and dish out the same heartless replies they have given me.

·       Where will they live when they, like me, are unable to pay their mortgages because of an economic crisis?

·        How will they cope when they, like me, suffer from stress related ill health while they watch the effects of the financial crisis take hold on the demeanor of their children and their relationships?

·        What will they do when they, like me, are not allowed to rent their houses to cover their interest payments and instead lose their homes?

·        How much will they weep when, like me, HBOS and Lloyds force a sale on their homes and create shortfalls for which they have no means of repaying?

·        How many letters will they, like me, write asking for debt forgiveness only to be denied time and time again?

·        How will they feel when they, like me, try to explain to Merrils Ede solicitor’s henchwoman their circumstances and attempt to procure a workable solution only to be met with deaf and judgemental ears?

·       What will they do when, like me, they are told “people in your position should not be talking and explaining but, instead, be listening and repaying?"

·       What will they do when, like me,they are faced with the harsh reality their financial reputation and any hopes for a secure financial future are to be dashed against the rocks and lost forever?
It is said what goes around comes around and no doubt knowing what faces these poor people could indeed be seen as a form of poetic justice, especially if they are indeed the very same people whose decisions have ruined me. However, despite the ongoing harsh and condescending words of Lloyds and HBOS middle management,  my campaign is entirely about encouraging this immensely powerful banking fraternity to be Fair and Just.
It is not fair,
  •  to pursue and persecute any individuals who have no way of repaying their mortgage shortfalls

  • Fair to disregard the hardship suffered by any individual,

But it is definitely not just,
  • to ignore workable solutions which could save a family home in favour of  bailouts for the corporate elite.
I cannot help but wonder if any of these imminently redundant employees of Lloyds and HBOS might be reminded of my letters of distress when their ex- employers take them to court to repossess their homes.  

Questions and No Answers

Over the last seven days, I have battled a cold, battled with the Friends Committee over our imminent Ball and battled with HBOS's appointed debt collectors Merrils Ede Solicitors. Feeling the need to take a couple of paces back from the coal face I decided to make use of the good weather to do some errands. It was while driving around it sprung to mind I have been in a difficult spot with the Halifax once before.
In 1987, soon after joining the financial services industry, I remortgage my home with the Halifax so I could finance it's renovation.  As mortgage rates were relatively low at the time, a £165,000 mortgage against a £210,000 valuation was easily affordable.The stock market crash of Black Monday October 1987 changed this situation changed.
While I was kept busy talking to clients about their investments, the chancellor was equally busy pushing base rates up in an effort to curb spending. Before long, mortgage rates had topped 15.4% which almost tripled the mortgage interest payments I had signed up to at outset.  Before long my beautifully refurbished home had also lost 30% in value and it had become clear to me, although I could no longer afford the interest payments, a sale would not cover the outstanding mortgage either.  Even if I had secured a purchaser I had to means with which to cover the anticipated shortfall with either monthly payments or capital.
To help me save my house and avoid mortgage shortfall debt, my local Halifax branch manager agreed to me letting my home  and making partial mortgage interest payments until the economic crisis improved and interested rates dropped. This solution enabled me to meet the majority of my interest payments while riding out the recession. When, as expected interest rates dropped, the Halifax suggested they capitalise the £11,000 of arrears which had accumulated. I did this in1992. I continued to cover the whole mortgage interest payment for years to come and  when I eventually moved back into the house, I sold it and made a sizable profit in April 2000.
The actions I took in 1988 provided a perfect solution for both the Halifax and I throughout the late eighties and early nineties and led to an outcome where neither party lost out. Why, twenty years later, was it so impossible for them to cut me a similar deal in the economic recession of 2008? I can not for the life of me understand why this time it has been better for them to hound me to distraction
Although I know this question is one for which I am unlikely ever to secure an answer, I would certainly appreciate the opportunity to watch somebody from Lloyds, HBOS or the Bank Scotland attempt to provide me a logical reply.

Tough times

When I say I’ve had a tough week I do not mean,  

·        I have lost my husband and soul mate to a fatal heart attack at age forty nine

·        Nor have I had to face the man who stabbed me twenty one times in court

·        Neither have I had get through my life knowing I am a victim of violence and sexual abuse as a child

But, for three of my friends, this is their reality and I am so proud they have risen to their challenging lives with such stoicism and dignity.
Losing my home, my hair and my money pales into insignificance when compared with what life has dealt these women yet when we meet, we rarely do anything but laugh.

My thoughts are with you girls.