Tuesday, 29 May 2012

No Change of Circumstance


US president, Ronald Reagan once said, “Governments view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves tax it. If it keeps moving regulate it. And if it stops moving subsidise it” however if this is indeed the economic philosophy of the UK government too there is clearly a great deal of latitude in its interpretation as, to date, “if it keeps moving regulate it” has yet to register on the banking reform To Do list while “if it stops moving subsidise it” has only been applicable if it further strengthens the position (and the power) of the banksters.
For the vast majority of us, economic crisis has meant a 3% decline in wages (in real terms) but, despite being the villains in the mix, the banking elite have enjoyed a very different outcome. Instead of wage cuts and austerity measures they have enjoyed both tax breaks and subsidies along with a very respectable 37% increase in their remuneration packages while “ New Few”  have basked in an even more astounding 49% increase on 2010 earnings amounting to more than 900 times that of an average wage packet. 

David Cameron may wish us to believe we are all “in this together” but good sense dictates we are most definitely not and where Obama’s “settlement” to rescue homeowners with underwater mortgages has admittedly fallen foul of state governors discretionary powers to use these funds to prop up their deficits, our UK government has paid lip service to justice for the victims of banking fraud and instead sold on shortfall debt arising from RBS repossessions to replenish the coffers depleted by bank bailouts while repeatedly turning a blind eye to the crimes of the banking elite.

As the gap widens between the rich and the poor and irresponsible banking continues to go both unpunished and unregulated, it is only the Icelandic government who appear to have addressed the distress of the individual.  Debt forgiveness of residential mortgages over 110% of their 2008 valuations has not only played a huge part in rescuing their economy but it has saved a large proportion of their householders too. However, in the UK oligarchs continue to rule our politicians, reports of banking fraud continue to fall on deaf ears and as a result those of us with Bank of Scotland created mortgage shortfalls can only look forward to endless years of persecution born out of widespread regulatory lethargy and banking avarice.

British writer, novelist, columnist, Conservative Party politician and 3rd Baronet, Sir William Robert Ferdinand Mount says, “Britain will begin to heal its divisions only when oligarchs and their opposite, the poor, are reconnected to the rest of the society, so that the first are no longer seen as uncontrollable and the second as irredeemable”. Unfortunately, for the less than affluent individual this is unlikely to become a government directive because, if my own HBOS experience is anything to go by, the government along with our errant bankers have one fundamental viewpoint in common.

They believe, because they are all in it together, the individuals who makes up the 99% simply do not count.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Busy Getting Nowhere


American journalist and author Sidney J Harris once said, “The two words information and communication are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out: communication is getting through” and while it remains abundantly clear I am still a long way off getting through to banking giants Lloyds and HBOS, I have been the recipient of a varied and plentiful supply of information from varied number of sources in the interim.
I have recently discovered,

·        Friend’s committee meetings, contrary to popular opinion, are not a forum from which to explore new ideas but instead serve purely to facilitate more of the same.

·        BT Internet hot spots, unlike their TV advertising campaign would have you believe, can only be accessed by spending a inordinate amount of time on the phone to their overseas call centre.

·       Private landlords who substantially reduce the rent are often loath to spend money on essential structural repairs to five hundred year old properties regardless of the consequences.

·        Parliamentary Ombudsmen, despite their swift reply to my consumer complaint, have completely miss-understood the nature of my grievance in the name of efficiency.

And

·        Government guidelines along with the guidelines of the Financial Ombudsman Service for banks dealing with customers in arrears, or facing repossession are completely irrelevant when the FOS assess the merits of a formal complaint.

It appears, despite my tentative forays on twitter and the plethora of information I have subsequently gleaned from all who have kindly responded to my posts, for those of us who remain locked in battle with the banks, there is still an inordinately long way to go to affect a success communication of our predicament to both the government and their banking regulators. I do, however, take some solace in the words of both American anthropologist Margaret Mead, and the twelve year old Canadian girl who quoted them when she expertly explained how banks have defrauded and robbed our economy on U-Tube this week, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

I sincerely hope she is correct.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sink or Swim


In the mid 1800’s American activist, journalist and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said, “You cannot possibly have a broader base for government than that which includes all the people with all their rights and with an equal power to maintain their rights.” He was speaking in support of the emancipation of slaves at the time and, although I do not pretend to claim the banking crisis is equal in abhorrence to the plight of the twelve million Africans who were sold into slavery between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, there are definitely parallels.
Like the slave traders, there are a number of bankers worldwide who have pursued personal gain with no regard for the pain and suffering levied on others. When those enslaved by debt could no longer afford their mortgages, often as result of austerity related job losses, these bankers threw them out of their homes along with their families without a backward glance. Having systematically asset stripped the global economy to line their own pockets, this very same fraternity has maintained an aloof detachment from the cruelty their psychopathic and narcissistic actions have had on their victims. Masterfully in denial of all culpability, they have stood by while millions of homeowners (forecasters predict twenty five million foreclosures in the US alone) had both their livelihoods and their equity removed from their grasp with a single expertly placed blow.

Shackled indefinitely to mortgage shortfalls as a direct result of bank profiteering, and bullied and beaten by the banks henchmen, the individual is also expected to pay the price of the global economic crisis. In contrast the bankers are still enjoying remunerations of up to 500 hundred times that of the national average earnings. For many of those trapped in debt sentences for life, emancipation is unimaginable and with debt forgiveness out of the question, it is little wonder there has been a 36% increase in the suicide rate. Even more staggering, this figure by far exceeds the 21% increase in suicides during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Throughout the years of financial crisis help for those paying the consequences has definitely not been at hand. The UK government and their regulators have paid little more than lip service to the much needed rescue packages promised to those experiencing mortgage distress while news of a further drop in share price for many of the “too big to fail” UK banks following the announcement of two billion dollars in losses at “too complicated to control”JP Morgan only serves to highlight how little has changed since the onset of the global recession.

While the Greeks and the Spanish struggle to reach any solution at all, newly elected French prime minister, Francoise Hollande may well have had the task firmly in his sights when he stated, “My principal adversary has no name, it has no face, and it does not belong to a political party, it has never presented its candidature and has never been elected but it still governs. This adversary is the world of finance” but, encouraging as his words are, he too has yet to deliver.

However, in the US, it appears the tide may at last be turning.

Distressed homeowners with underwater mortgages and more than two months of arrears are to receive aid in the form of principal reduction in an effort to enable them to stay in their homes. After year long government negotiations the banks in question hope to avoid 850 million dollars of penalties by financing a rescue package for the individual which not only avoids the huge costs and the heartache of foreclosure, but helps those in difficulties get back on their feet. Although some would say the twenty five billion dollars set aside to implement this is still not enough and the banks have, once again, got off lightly, it is a far cry from the heartless foreclosure policies of the UK’s banking industry.

Delighted to hear our American cousins are soon to benefit from the support of a government prepared to take some of their errant bankers to task, I cannot help but wonder why a similar settlement has proved impossible to arrange for sufferers of negative equity mortgages here in the UK. Had this been the case when I was in the grips of repossession at the hands of HBOS, my story would have been very different to that which I tell now.

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States once said, “When people fear the government there is tyranny: when the government fear the people there is liberty” and hearing these words I am left wondering what future can we in the UK can expect when it blatantly obvious that our government lives in fear of the banks.                                                                                                               

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Blame and Circumstance


Jean Paul Getty once said, “If you owe the bank one hundred dollars that’s your problem, if you owe them a hundred million dollars then that is their problem” and while a global economic recession gives rise to worldwide fretting over trillions, democracy remains the process by which the "powers that be" choose to allocate the blame.

For  Antonio Horta Osario, chief executive officer of  41% tax payer owned banking giant Lloyds, it is over enthusiastic claims management companies swamping his administrators for PPI compensation who are getting his goat. Lloyds are expected to pay out an estimated five hundred million pounds to clients to whom they have miss-sold PPI. Mr Horta Osario says one in four claims submitted by these companies are for individuals who are not eligible for compensation nor have they been customers of the bank and says this blanket approach to the claims process is not only slowing it down but costing Lloyds money. His has publically stated “ it is fraud and it must stop”. However he has not felt the need to make such strong statements about Lloyds Banking Group’s own HBOS executives, despite the knowledge several are now facing criminal charges for alleged financial crimes which have cost the indivual and the economy billions.

Defence secretary, Philip Hammond, has also chosen to point his accusing finger this week declaring he is of the opinion it is the individual who “over borrowed in the economic boom who must now admit to their part in the financial crisis”. He says the banks had to lend to someone and these people should “accept responsibility for the consequences of their own choices” rather than conveniently cast the blame on the banks.  However, when speaking of the period in which he helped formulate David Cameron’s economic strategy in opposition he says, “We started living a lifestyle both in private consumption and in public consumption which could we not afford [and it] ran away with us” so unsurprisingly it appears the governments take on the financial is what is sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander.

In contrast, Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, previously reluctant to lay the blame at anyone’s door, now tells us it is “the failure of a system” that is at fault and not the individual. Speaking of “a slow and steady recovery coming during the course of 2012” he admits the Bank of England must take a “share of the responsibility” for the financial crisis and “with benefit of hind sight should have shouted from the rooftops that a financial system had been built in which banks were too important to fail, that banks had grown too quickly and borrowed too much, and that so-called “ light-touch regulation hadn’t prevented any of this”.

It also seems HBOS auditors KPMG may well be shouldering some blame this week following reports an official investigation by the Financial Reporting Committee to investigate their conduct following HBOS whistle blower Paul Moore’s letter to the Treasury Select Committee sighting an inaccuracy in their forensic audit regarding his dismissal as global head of regulatory risk in 2005. Mr Moore was “let go” because he disagreed with the board’s attitude to risk and warned that HBOS’s lending strategy had become dangerously over heated. He believes KPMG’s decision to record this event as “a clash of personalities” was wholly misleading to the Lloyds takeover of 2008 and eventually cost the tax payer a further millions in government bailout support . Mr Moore blames the fact that, “money seems to be more important to KMPG’s strategy than integrity and professionalism”.

And

Stephen Hester, chief executive officer of 84% taxpayer own Royal Bank of Scotland is also casting the blame this week and its not, as one might expect on his predecessor Fred Goodwin who has already been stripped of his knighthood, is facing criminal charges for fraud and may well have past bonuses recalled to help fund PPI compensation. Instead Mr Hester’s eight gardeners on his 7 million pound, 350 acre Oxfordshire estate tell us rain has blighted attendance of the annual charitable opening of his twenty five acre gardens. It may not have crossed Mr Hester’s mind his infamous fight to keep his £963,000 bonus earlier this year despite a dip of 36% on its share price, a first quarter loss of 1.4 billion and further RBS job losses ,bringing the total to almost 50% of its pre- crisis work force, might well have had something to do with the public's disinterest in his garden.

Founder of the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company, Harvey S Firestone once said, “A man with a surplus can control circumstance, but a man without a surplus is controlled by circumstance and often has no opportunity to exercise judgement”. However if this week is anything to go by, this rule seems seldom to apply and it is for this reason I live in hope that, despite a life now lived without surplus, I will have the opportunity to exercise my own judgement in my ongoing personal battle with HBOS and will, one day, enjoy a result as a consequence of public opinion insisting the banks ultimately accept the blame.