Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Debt Sentences

If Albert Einstein once thought our technology exceeded our humanity, I can only imagine what he would say of our banking culture today.  This week alone I have read an open letter of resignation from a Goldman Sachs executive director speaking of toxic investment practises along with an ex banker's declaration stating his “mildly revolting” earnings pale into insignificance when compared with the current “completely obscene” remunerations of his untalented former colleagues.  In these circumstancest is not difficult to conclude a bland, mediocre man at the helm of the FSA has been essential to ensure this unregulated reign of economic terror has continued for as long as it has.
On hearing these revelations from within the financial sector it has been no surprise to also hear the FSA’s lengthy and expensive investigation into the Bank of Scotland has finally confirmed precisely what so many of us already knew via a government commissioned report which exposes gross misconduct on the part of the Bank of Scotland’s board of directors. At long last the way has been paved for a much overdue wave of criminal prosecutions against the too big to fail perpitraitors of these economic crimes.
Yet, despite evidence of banking fraud finally reaching the public domain, I am still facing a fight to obtain a full Financial Ombudsman’s investigation in to my own case because this very same infamous banking giant has chosen to make use of an FSA jurisdiction clause to thwart further assessment of my complaint. This clause dictates an individual has only a six months to bring a case to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service while, in contrast, the Bank of Scotland have jurisdiction for twelve years to pursue me for a debt they have both created and, despite their denials, continued to correspond with me about for three years.
It has also come to light that if I sign to accept their jurasdiction arguement and agree to their “goodwill” offer to remove Merrels Ede solicitors from my case giving me eighteen months respite from their pursuit, I could well be acting to my detriment in more ways than one. Tempting though it is to obtain this guarantee from the Bank of Scotland, it is my belief signing an agreement of this nature will in itself be an admission of my responsibility for a debt I have always believed the Bank of Scotland created and not me. Furthermore, not only will my signature amount to an admission of this liability but it will also re-calibrate the twelve year clock from the day I put my mark on the Bank of Scotland's document and  in so doing extend their jurisdication for my pursuit by another three years. At present I stand three years into this debt sentence.
Equally infuriating is the fact that the Bank of Scotland are to not to receive so much as a slap on the wrist from the FOS for setting their brutish debt collectors  on me, because, in spite of being in receipt of more than twenty letters from myself and the CAB explaining, in detail, my reduced financial circumstances, the FOS are happy to believe the Bank of Scotland were not fully aware of my position. It is said banks who have been the subject of bailouts are continuing to prove the economic theory of moral hazard true in that those who go unpunished because of  government rescue packages continue to make the same mistakes. If my case is anything to go by, the Bank of Scotland are no exception to this rule and are now, more than ever, keen to lay the blame firmly at the door of the individual while using every rouse they can to wriggle out of their moral obligations to the victims of their greedy, self actuating behaviour.
So, as the school holidays approach and my case remains unresolved, I am forced once again, to negotiate with a very disgruntled Financial Ombudsman’s adjudicator who never fails to go to great lengths to be more than fair to my gigantic adversary. Explaining my desperate need for unencumbered child free time to give my case the attention it deserves, I have (thankfully) secured her reluctant consent for an extension to her deadline. This will give me a much needed opportunity to take advice and pursue some FSA technicalities of my own. However, I am told the price I have paid for this opportunity is I will never secure this kind of consideration from her again.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” and despite recommendations from many who know me, along with a fair few from those who don’t, it seems acting beyond the reason of others is the only way left for me to secure progress towards a debt free life for my family.


Thanks to my FOS extension, I now have four debt fighting free weeks to spend with my children and in the words of the reggae band playing outside the Radio Four Workshop for script writers I went to this weekend, I say to all those who have expressed concern for me this week,

“Don’t worry, be happy, every little thing is going to be alright!”

...and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Bob Marley is right.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Help and the Aged

Economist Thomas Sowell said, “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats, procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing” and realising procedural bureaucracy has taken its toll on me this week, I made the decision to redressed the situation with a much needed of a change of scene.
Making my eighty five year old mother my first port of call, I suggested we take a trip into our small market town and, grateful of some quality time together, she was not difficult to persuade. Beautifully presented in an outfit she would have normally kept for best, we set off at a leisurely pace along the high street. Frail with age but still game, my mother clung trustingly to my arm as we negotiated uneven pavements and headed for her favourite supplier of cappuccino and custard pies.
Mother, intent on imparting the finer details of all she had encountered since my visit a few days previously, did not notice the man ahead blocking our progress. Neither did she comment on the scooter he sat astride mid pavement. Scruffy in appearance, lopsided of face and missing an eye there was no escaping the driver’s attentions and I braced myself for an unpredictable encounter while negotiating the dangers of a dilapidated scooter that was nothing short of a health hazard.
Choosing not to step out into the road and instead risking the jagged edges of his vehicle I drew close to the man in question but with eyes fixed firmly at ground level in the interest of my mother’s ankles.  Hoping for bland indifference but braced for some level of abuse for squeezing past him rather going round, I was totally unprepared for what happened.
Ancient and broken he leaned into me and whispered as we passed, “I think you are really beautiful” and then, just loud enough for my mother to hear he said, “and I think your sister is too!”
Seeing my mother melt into gleeful revelry at the thought that someone should think we were sisters while in receipt of the first pass either of us had enjoyed in years, was not only the perfect non bureaucratic outcome for our day but most definitely a highlight of my mother’s eighty-fifth year.  What’s more the flirtatious devilment of an aged, invalided man proved a keen reminder that, more than anything else, attitude determines whether difficult undertakings have successful outcomes. This lesson was most definitely a ready remedy for me at the end of what has proved to be very taxing HBOS fighting week.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Mice and men

US attorney Robert Francis Kennedy said, “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.  Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope” and it is because of the support of other HBOS victims together with the encouragement of my blog followers and not least the help of my special friend Chris I have continued, day after day and now, year after year, to summon the courage to engage in an ongoing battle with HBOS. I do this with the express hope of securing a just and dignified solution for a problem HBOS’s irresponsible policies and negligent procedures created and I do this on behalf of the insignificant individual.

After two years of fruitlessly communicating our position with both HBOS themselves followed by a further year of attempting to do the same with their solicitors Merrils Ede, all I have received so far is endless persecution and, more recently, an offer of eighteen months respite on the grounds that HBOS were not fully aware of my financial position and health issues previously.

Now, after nearly twelve months in their hands, I have heard from a very disconcerted team leader at the Financial Ombudsman’s Service, that HBOS, on hearing my complaint is heading for a formal investigation with the Ombudsman himself and despite expectations to the contrary, have refused to allow my case to progress on grounds of jurisdiction. At this late stage HBOS, in full knowledge of both our health issues and our unrecoverable financial position, wish to argue my case is invalid on the basis of timescale.

I have repeatedly been told by the Financial Ombudsman’s Service their position is always neutral but in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, “If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. Speaking as the insignificant mouse, I can only hope that ultimately a higher court exists than that of bureaucratic justice and wait anxiously to see if it is the Financial Ombudsman’s court of conscience that will eventually rule the day. 
I can only conclude, based on the information I have received today, the Halifax Bank of Scotland have absolutely no interest in either justice or conscience and, unless I am grossly mistaken, I suspect by the tone of his voice over the telephone earlier, the team leader at the Financial Ombudsman’s Service is more than aware of this unsavoury fact too.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Cabbages and Things

I, like Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States of America, have always been amongst those who believe that the greatest freedom of speech [is]the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking". Finding myself silenced by laryngitis for the last few days has provided me with an ideal opportunity to test this theory.
So far I have heard;
·        the US Justice Department has struggled to find adequate evidence to press criminal charges against senior executives of major lenders despite a multitude of mortgage documents bearing evidence of recently forged signatures and illegal alterations being made available to them. They remain convinced their hands are tied regardless of the U.S. Treasury’s confirmation that it is conducting a civil investigation into 4,500 illegal foreclosures while attorneys representing service members estimate banks have foreclosed on up to 30,000 military personnel in potential violation of the law.

·        Shane O’Riordain (Group Communications Director of the Lloyds banking group) saying on Radio 4, “It’s entirely right for companies, both our company and others, to pay bonuses when performance targets have been met” only a few hours before HBOS whistle blower Paul Moore explained, also on Radio 4, the flip side to this “reward for growth at any cost culture” was a publicly awarded cabbage for those who failed or, in his case, a lunacy label for warning of the economic risks.
·        Big banks continue to believe they are not only fair and fit for purpose, but essential for our continued welfare. They insist people should stop complaining and calling for regulatory measures to safeguard our economic future but instead, knuckle down to suffer whatever deprivation is necessary and leave them (in some cases the very same people who caused the economic crisis in the first place) to get on with fixing the economic crisis.
And on the home front:
·        Lloyds TSB’s collections department insist, in spite of the CAB’s written confirmation to the contrary, their file notes are evidence that my mature, part-time and voluntary CAB representative rang their Lloyds TSB collections department at 6.42 a.m. on the morning of 11 August 2010 to offer to make a payment arrangement on my behalf.

·        the Ombudsman’s adjudicator has explained, yet again that, in spite of originally initiating this particular ombudsman’s compliant on the basis that neither I, nor the CAB, had ever entered into a payment arrangement with Lloyds TSB, it is not her role to uphold my complaint by insisting, (as per my repeated requests) Lloyds communicate directly with me, just because they might have made a mistake about my entering apayment arrangement.

·        Faced with figures from Lloyds own housing growth tables for 2006-2008 which support  my case for the over-valuation of my property, I have been told my £217,000 mortgage shortfall is too “remote” to provide a causal link to support a loss for which I can sue.
It is said each of us are given a little spark of madness at birth and because of this it is important not to lose it. If my own week is anything to go by, there is absolutely no danger of this as I am clearly surrounded by either fools or madmen 


In honour of International women’s day, our fair share of mad women too.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Plato and Platitudes

Plato once said, “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws” and, to my intense irritation, this morning’s endeavours at my lawyers office were no exception to this disheartening observation. Once again it has been revealed there are yet more HBOS favouring obstacles in my path to prevent the law from making HBOS accountable for actions which now appear to have been pivotal to our overall financial demise as well as the loss of our home.
When, in October 2008, I first discovered to what lengths my husband had over extended to keep our property development company afloat, my focus was on debt forgiveness for the £217,000 mortgage shortfall HBOS chose to create when they forced a sale on home. Initially unaware of HBOS’s sexist and neglectful attitude towards their duty of care to customers, it did not occur to me that this infamous bank had actually played, through its corporate growth at any cost policy, a leading role in our financial downfall. 

I now strongly suspect the opposite and plan to do my level best to prove it.

Hearing of a banking policy to over value properties for mortgage purposes in the USA and then discovering HBOS themselves had launched a pre-crisis mortgage product offering 125% loan to value (in Nov 2006) prompted me to consider the possibility that our home might have been overvalued too. I now believe HBOS' objective in April 2006 was not to raise us money against the equity within our property but instead it was to sell us a £790,000 mortgage against equity we simply did not have. My theory is further supported by the fact that our only prospective purchaser's surveyor down valued our home (by a massive £150,000) to £800,000 in April 2008 after HBOS had valued it a whopping £925,000 less than two years earlier. When HBOS eventually sold our home in April 2009 for a mere £665,000, I began to smell a very large HBOS rat.

Aghast at the implications it became clear to me that the attempts to sell our house between April 2007 and September 2008 had been completely futile and, for the first time, I began to comprehend just how much the HBOS culture of making a sale at any price had actually cost us. Not only had it, from outset, made it impossible to sell our home without creating a shortfall for years to come, but it also misled us into thinking there was enough equity within our main residence (15% of its value) to complete our building development project from the proceeds of its sale. What is more, this building project was not only destined to provide both a new home for our family but also was also designed to provide a generous residual income from its two letting units. In addition it was also earmarked to provide the security for a further building project on which my husband had already spent £50,000 obtaining an option and planning permission for the construction of twenty-three Eco friendly homes, all of which a housing association had already agreed to purchase off plan. This project alone was estimated to return us in excess of £500,000 profit.  

Because of an inaccurate HBOS valuation in April 2006 I now realise my life was, and always has been, on a crash course for financial destruction from the day we accepted HBOS’s re-mortgage offer.  Furthermore, I am nothing short of devastated to find, if the two litigation lawyers I consulted this morning are to be believed, there is nothing the law can do to make HBOS accountable for the impact these huge losses have had on my future let alone encourage them to write off a £217,000 mortgage shortfall they created when they refused to allow me to meet out interest payment by letting my property while my husband found another job.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” and it appears that from what I have learnt today, our feral bankers are not only set to enjoy an untouchable status when it comes to regulation and reform but are also set to continue, like Hitler, to profit from the benefit of a legal carte blanche as well.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The air that I breath

The Duke of Wellington once said, "All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don't know by what you do” and I find his words wholly descriptive of the process I have endured throughout my three year mission to obtain a meaningful dialogue with HBOS.

Grateful of knowledge gleaned of the lending industry via a career in financial services combined with a hundred years of financial expertise within my immediate family gave me the impression I would be well positioned to communicate with HBOS about our financial difficulties and effect a solution. Initially I hoped to avoid the forced sale of my home in 2008 by letting it for a three year period to a long term tenant. When this failed I believed an understanding of money might stand me in good stead when requesting debt forgiveness.  Instead, I discovered nothing could have been further from the truth when it came to dealing with the too big to fail bank, HBOS.

Over the past three years I have,

·        Fully explained our financial circumstances and supplied supporting evidence to HBOS

·        Enlisted the help of a many of charitable organisations to verify my circumstances to HBOS

·        Researched and quoted the guidelines for the FSA, FOS and CCS to illustrate my point to HBOS

·        Scrutinised and quoted from a plethora of literature on government guidelines and the Mortgage Code of Conduct to support my case against  HBOS

·        Absorbed the expertise of any number of insolvency experts, tax investigators, accountants and bankruptcy courts to quote to HBOS in an effort to make our position understood


·        Written hundreds of letters to HBOS, their agents and their regulatory authorities initially calling on the use of logic, then begging for empathy and compassion, and finally demanding a formal complaint.

Armed with the aforementioned industry insight, I had hoped for a practical and dignified resolution to our unrecoverable position would eventually be negotiated. Sadly my endeavours have resulted in nothing more than a vast accumulation of knowledge in areas where I formerly had little or no expertise.

On the other hand I have learned a great deal about debt, and am especially well informed on debt with HBOS. From three long years at the HBOS coal face I have discovered,

·        HBOS are neither interested in the truth nor are they motivated to reach a cost effective resolution to an individual’s financial problems

·        Charitable debt handling organisations regularly feel impotent when  battling the banks on behalf on their vulnerable clients and have little in their armoury to offer other than sympathy and bankruptcy

·        Regulatory guidelines for the financial services industry are rarely enforced and their in-house adjudicators are often, at best, subjective and at worst derogatory and unsympathetic

·        Individuals employed in debt collection on behalf of HBOS are often superior in attitude and extremely judgmental.

·        Bankruptcy and insolvency arrangements are a luxury many, including myself, cannot afford

·        No one really believes that debt forgiveness for the individual actually exists in spite of evidence I have supplied to the contrary

·        Letters of logic, compassion and complaint are rarely read by those who have the wherewithal to understand them


·        A little bit of knowledge on the part of the individual can pose a very lucrative commodity when it comes to establishing HBOS’s culpability in the financial downfall of one of the 99%.

This week, I am to meet with the senior partner of a large and established law firm to ascertain if, after three years of pleading for debt mercy, it is I who has grounds to pursue a legal case against HBOS for causing my financial demise in the first place.

It is said there is no point complaining about the air if it’s all you have to breath. And for this reason I have previously looked only for solutions, and later compassion, from my HBOS oppressors. I had hoped our deficit would be forgiven and in so doing allow me to consider my family’s future in a life free from tormentors we could not satisfy.  Now there is the smallest of chances to enjoy a completely different out-look, I can only imagine the joy of breathing air which is no longer contaminated by debt. However, despite this somewhat over-whelming possibility for some good news....

I still won’t be holding my breath!