Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Conscientious Objections

American president Thomas Jefferson said, “All tyranny needs in order to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” and while I wait, without patience, for a reply from the Halifax Bank of Scotland with regard to the overvaluation of my home, I continue to smart from the knowledge there are many people of good conscience who would prefer to accuse me of irresponsible borrowing rather than consider the unpalatable possibility their banks are participating in a reign of financial tyranny to feed elitist avarice from the modest means of the least fortunate.
While banking sins of the past continue to surface in the public domain and CEO’s like Stephen Hester of RBS admit their parents believe they already earn too much, recent reports reveal the world’s top bankers are set to enjoy a double digit increase to their remuneration this year, excluding bonuses.  Despite banking profits and share prices plummeting, the top fifteen anticipate as much as 12% will be added to their personal bottom line and Barclay’s Bob Diamond and Lloyds banking Group’s Antonio Horta Osario are but two of the lucky chief executives set to benefit. As this award comes hot on the tail of an unprecedented number of customer complaints, the huge toll of PPI compensation payouts, a well documented hard line approach to both in house redundancies and debt forgiveness for the vulnerable, one could easily say for many banking executives, there remains good reason to fiddle while the economy continues to burn.

In contrast, the impact of this hard nosed, self serving banking culture on the individual has been further revealed during an open high court hearing into the collapse of Christmas savings company Farepak.  However, this investigation has only served to illustrate there is little the law can to do to arrest banking tyranny at any level  as HBOS’s penchant for lining their own pockets at the expense of others has not only left the Farepak’s directors and their customers to suffer the consequences of HBOS's actions, but also proved that HBOS is adept at remaining beyond the grasp of the strong arm of the law.

In the case of Farepak the court was told “for a year, 116,400 of the country’s poorest families had been putting aside a little bit of cash, saving up for Christmas” only to be left with nothing because, rather than putting together a rescue plan to save the company from collapse or cutting their losses when the writing was on wall, HBOS insisted Farepak directors continue to collect customer’s monthly subscriptions in an effort to eliminate the bank’s exposure. While Mr Justice Peter Smith, not unlike FSA investigators earlier this year, condemned the actions of HBOS, he also “implored” them to redress the situation for Farepak’s customers on moral grounds as he was unable to find the transferring of HBOS losses onto the shoulder’s of Farepak’s customers in this way, illegal. Needless to say HBOS, who infamously referred to the revenue the Farepak customers were providing them as "Doris money", insist they made “entirely reasonable decisions” based on the information they had at the time.

Italian writer, statesmen and Florentine patriot Niccolo Machiavelli once said, “Good morals, if they are to be maintained, have need of the laws, so the laws, if they are to be observed, have need of good morals” yet despite the ongoing distress of those caught up in a global economic crisis some five hundred years later, there remains little evidence of morality or the law playing its part in bringing errant banking practises to heel. Left endlessly waiting in purgatory and with little hope of the law or morality coming to my rescue, if the Farepak case is anything to go by, it is my plan, with good conscience,

Never to remain silent on the matter.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Posts, Mail and Shots

Franklin D Roosevelt once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough for those who have little” and while reports continue to illustrate the extent to which bankers avarice for their obscene levels of remuneration have infected and disabled moves towards regulatory change across the globe, I have embarked on a campaign to increase my readership in a bid to raise awareness of the impact their actions have had on the individual. With little more than a years experience as a writer and next to no knowledge of the Internet, social media sites or forums, this decision has taken me way beyond my comfort zone.

Over the past two weeks I have,

·        Signed up to, commented on and posted my blog on numerous articles relating to the economic recession.

·        Sent 562 tweets on my hitherto unused twitter account to a variety of recipients together with a link to my blog.

·        Applied to several different sites inviting writers to post pieces with a view to linking them to my blog

·        Explored Avatars, Gravatars, badges along with all things Google in order to improve the access to my blog

·        Posted new threads and links to my blog on Mumsnet in an effort to acquire information about the ongoing issues I have with HBOS.

Throughout this two week period, I have been filled with trepidation at the potential for abusive responses to my unsolicited “mail shot”.

I am delighted to be able to report the following.

I have,

·        Been invited to write a piece for Women Writers for September 2012

·        Acquired twenty one new and communicative followers on twitter

·        Heard from three separate individuals who are also suffering at the hands of HBOS

·        Tripled the number of people who have read my blog in previous months

·        Received three very supportive comments and expressions of encouragement with respect to my posts on Mumsnet

However, I have also received,

·        My first block, ever, from a former banker for “sending her spam”.

·        Had a post deleted from the Mumsnet legal section for inadvertently posting it where I should not have


·        Been subject to eight outraged and unsympathetic comments proclaiming my attitude to shortfall debt is naive, self indulgent and irresponsible.

Sincerely hoping the mood of these Mumsnet readers is not a reflection of the thinking woman or the public in general, this venomous outburst has left me wondering how I, and those like me, can hope to succeed in bringing about change in the attitude of the government, the financial regulators, and the banking elite if so many individuals are of the opinion the blame rests squarely with the very people who are struggling to keep their heads above water during this economic crisis, instead of the reckless and fraudulent risk-management strategies of the too big to fail banks who put them there.

English born American poet and dramatist W H Auden once said, “We are all here on earth to help others: what on earth the others are here for I don’t know” and after a week of this kind I can empathise with his viewpoint entirely.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Brave Hearts

American journalist and author Mignon McLaughlin once said, “Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense” and yet for those locked in financial hardship as a result of the economic crisis, suspense has remained the regime of each and every day.  

For the individual, the cavalry never came and instead government talk has continued to prove cheap. Austerity measures have been relentless and the current penchant for saving the perpetrators of the financial crisis instead of the victims has left the very people who were responsible for economic pillaging obscenely rewarded and at liberty to defend their infinitely valuable contribution to a financial future they have completely obliterated for the rest of us.
Well versed in the unchecked practices of the banking fraternity at home in the UK, it is has proved unremarkable to discover the tentacles of corporate corruption have also been busy feathering elitist nests in Spain. However, with an estimated one hundred and twenty six billion dollar euro taxpayer funded bailout in the offing, the Catalan parliament has finally seen fit to set up a committee to investigate long standing allegations of banking malpractice. These claims in include multi million euro payoffs to senior banking executives just before their banks collapsed, “hundreds of millions of loans to executives, board members and their families” and 50% executive pay increases when profits were barely 7%. Arsenio Escolar, editor of 20 Minutos believes, “If we really knew the truth about Bankia and the other Cajas, the two big parties-the People’s party and the Socialists- would explode”.

Unsurprised to discover a great many actions under investigation are those of Bankia with whom I have held a now substantially underwater mortgage for the past eight years, I remain unsure if reported levels of financial fraud are pivotal to the  manner in which they have dealt with me or merely a product of it. Either way, I remained unable to fathom why Banca Caja which now trades as Bankia and is reputed to be desperately in need of funding, has made no effort to communicate with me for a very long time.

During the past four years they have:

  • Refused to allocate the payments we made into our account to cover our mortgage 
  • Ignored all my communications asking why
  • Refused to allow me to sell our apartment to a very keen cash purchaser 
  • Ignored all my purchasers efforts to progress this sale.  
  • Refused to discuss interest only loan restructuring to make us tenanting our property viable in the long term
  • Ignored all correspondence from all parties on the subject including solicitors 
In addition, I am reliably informed that not only will I not be pursued for the inevitable shortfall on the sale of our Spanish property when Bankia eventually get round to it, all outstanding bills relating to it (currently 12,000 euros and rising) will also be covered by the bank in accordance with Spanish property law.

While I am naturally delighted to enjoy one less instance of suspense about which I must be brave, I can only assume operating in this manner may well result in a one hundred and twenty six billion euro bailout proving vastly insufficient to secure the rescue of an economic money pit of this magnitude. Furthermore, despite widespread belief that money talks, I suspect the people of Spain are about to find out, as have those of us enduring the purgatory of the economic crisis elsewhere that no matter how large the bailout, all money will ever say to the individual is,