Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Pain and its Place

American road racing cyclist and seven times winner of the Tour de France Lance Armstrong once said, “Pain is temporary, it may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year but eventually it will subside and something will take its place.  If I quit, however, it lasts forever” and despite a substantial helping of painfully damaging cyber bullying this week, giving up, although tempting, has never been an option.

In the last twenty four hours I have,

·        Sent three hundred and forty six emails explaining my hotmail account has not only been hacked but had my contact list hijacked as well.

·        Contacted Hotmail Abuse to report the distress I have endured at the hands of a cyber bully and supplied my tormentor’s message source code.

·        Spoken to the Headmaster at my children’s school to warn him of the potential for fallout from the offensive spam reaching both him and my children.

In addition I have,

·        Co-ordinated and ordered beverages to stock a bar for 150 people at the Friends Summer ball.

·        Compiled, commissioned and printed, 150 tickets, along with menus, bar lists and table names.

·        Encouraged, cajoled and begged inordinate numbers of parents, staff and hangers on to assist in the transforming of a speech day marquee into and tasteful venue for a summer ball.

·        Observed both  my older daughters and my mother try on every ball gown available on our high streets, dress agency rails and within the wardrobes of generous friends.

·        Altered and reworked a beautiful ball gown my thirteen year old daughter was given into something she is now happy with.

·        At no extra cost, completely redesigned and reworked a ball gown for myself which I originally paid the princely sum of £2.00 for in a sale.

I have also,

·        Written yet more letters to Lloyds Banking Group's debt collection agency explaining it is against regulatory guidelines to threaten court action and the instruction of doorstep collectors when a case is the subject of a Financial Ombudsman Service complaint.

·        Written to the previous Community President and the apartment complex administrators to point out sending abusive spam, which includes their own correspondence, to everyone on a debtors contact list is inappropriate behaviour for someone elected to hold this position

·        Scoured the Internet and picked the brains of anyone would listen for information on what constitutes cyber crime.

On top of this I have ,

·        Packed four suit cases for a ten day break which will start immediately after I've cleared the marque of all things associated with our Friends event

·        Cleaned the house and restocked the fridge for my seventeen year son who wishes to be left behind

·        Assembled mattresses and prepared bedding and for nine extra overnight guests who wish to crash at my house after the summer ball.

Although frenetic activity at this level has left me little time to read or write anything on the subject of Libor rate manipulation, Farepak victims or HBOS skulduggery, it has meant,

·        The arrangements are now finalised for the best attended fund raising summer ball the school has enjoyed in years.

·        All the women folk in my family will be resplendent in their affordable ball gowns regardless of the individuals respective personal budgets.

·        My husband, my youngest two children and I will be able to take up my father in laws generous “all expenses paid” offer of a holiday in his Spanish apartment 24 hours after the ball


·        According to Hotmail, cyber bullying may actually have a consequence for those who choose to practise it.

While it is evident my One Angry Man will never appreciate I am without concern at being publically exposed as financially bereft, it is clear he is also unable to comprehend both I, and Hotmail Customer Services, wish to avoid judgemental and inappropriate comments hurting my children. However, my short lived but none the less excruciating discomfort has brought the very welcome support of friends, family and an ever increasing number of sympathetic Life After Debt readers while their encouragement has allowed me to hope that, one day, I will finally celebrate a financial future free from both the wrath of cyber bullies and the avarice of Lloyds and HBOS.

In the words of Lance Armstrong, “When you think about it, what other choice is there but hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell”.

I know which road I plan to take.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

One Angry Man

Maya Angelou once said, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel and this week, despite the obligations of my hitherto clandestine occupation as debt fighter extraordinaire, I am very much hoping this observation proves to be true.
When my world fell apart as a consequence of our financial demise in 2008, it took me two years before I could communicate coherently with anyone. For this reason I remained largely out of sight from all but my immediate family and a few very close friends. All my hair fell out, I lost several stone in wait and I spent every moment of every day consumed by the horror and shame of being in debt. Each and every hour that I wasn’t required to carry out my duties of mother and housewife, I spent explaining our dire circumstances over and over again to our creditors. At the time I was incapable of being anything but consumed by our predicament.

Time has been a great healer and although we are far from out of the woods, and entirely because of the endless patience and kindness of many, many people, I have gradually emerged from a tunnel of overwhelming stress into a life which is different but far from unpleasant. The dark days of repeated panic attacks at the arrival of the postman are a memory I rarely linger on and I am proud to have pieced together a family life which provides both love and security for my children despite the back drop of a million pounds of unrecoverable debt.

Every creditor has been informed of our position and with the exception of HBOS and Lloyds all debts have been written off or are in the process of being written off. Even our beautiful apartment in Spain is due to be forcibly sold when Bankia get round to completing the sale at which point, according to both my solicitor and the bank who holds the mortgage, our community fee arrears of 12,000 Euros are to be settled in full by the bank.

While on occasion the lack of assets and the knowledge that our income remains very small saddens me, any malaise seldom persists because our children are happy and thriving in a school where I continue to work with grateful diligence as Chairman of the Friends. Whilst the head and his wife have been keen to remind me I have created an atmosphere of warmth and enthusiasm at both school events and amongst the ever increasing number of volunteering committee members, I am rewarded in the knowledge I have made a contribution, albeit not a financial one, towards to my children's education.

Despite the ongoing frustrations of my Financial Ombudsman’s Service complaint with regard to my HBOS case, my role as chairman has enabled me to move my daily focus away from obsessing about debt and instead channelled my energies into making myself useful and in so doing I have re-acquired “a life”. My email contact list bears testament to this with its one hundred and seventy three contacts and anything up to thirty incoming emails a day. Only two short years ago I had no computer and no email account,  whereas today I communicate with everyone from my children’s friend’s parents, Friends committee members, Governors, teachers, service providers for our events, through to my five children and six grand children to name but a few.

However today, in spite of my relentless determintaion to secure a safe and happy family life for my children, the very foundations of my new found stability have been rocked. Following the discovery that my email account had been hacked and was sending a link containing a virus out to all those on my contact list, I emailed everyone to warn them not to open it. Included in my alert was the wealthy volunteer chairman of the community of our apartment. Unwillingly to accept that Spanish law dictates the arrears on our community fees will be paid in full when the bank takes possession, he has chosen to send an abusive and threatening email outling his disgust at our non payment of the community fees not only to me, but also to everyone on my contact list.

It is certainly true the kindest words in all the world are the unkind words not said” but because of the unkind words born out of this malicious man’s impatience for money, I am now faced with the fact that not only has everyone I know been served a large helping of our shamefully dirty washing, but my children, along with many of their friends, their friends parents and their teachers have too.

It is four years since I discovered the extent to which my husband had borrowed in an effort to save his property business and today my head once again hangs in shame while my heart bleeds for what my children may well face on Monday morning. I can only hope the recipients of this vicious hate mail might pause to remember how I have, during my time as chairman endeavoured to make them feel, before passing judgement on our position. Either way I can only assume my family and I will need a strong stomach over the coming months as, now he has access to my contact list, I cannot imagine this will be the only time this angry man will be making use of it.
The thought of this makes me feel physically sick.

Monday, 2 July 2012

The Powerless and Corruption

George Bernard Shaw, Irish play wright and founder of the London School of Eoconomics once said, “Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power" and while I am repeatedly told by the Financial Ombudsman Service unprecedented numbers of complaints are the reason I have not yet received a ruling on whether my HBOS complaint can proceed, it is clear the fault actually lies with unprecedented incidents of banking fraud and not, as bankers would have us believe, the audacity of their victims.
While all eyes are on Barclays fraudulent actions following the US and UK regulators levy of a £290 million fine for Libor rate manipulation, it has become abundantly clear CEO Bob Diamond was not wrong when he said “how people behave when they think no one is watching” has been at the heart of his banks profitability and risk management policies for many a year. With  the news that vast funds have been repeatedly and systematically skimmed by Barclays from a plethora of global financial manoeuvres spanning as much as five years, civil suits are likely to far outstrip existing compensation payouts which are already run into billions making a regulatory fine of £290 million pale into insignificance.

By way of an explanation, our regulataors tell us a wave of Libor fiddling during the 2008 financial crisis resulted from “senior management’s” concerns that Barclays would be perceived as struggling.  Add into this mix a conversation Diamond had with Paul Tucker, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, after which at least two Barclay’s managers believed falsely adjusting Libor rates had been agreed, one can only wonder why anyone thinks Chairman Marcus Angius’ resignation along with the sacking of fourteen Barclay’s traders has resolved anything let alone emptied the Barclays barrel of its rotten apples.

With the regulatory finger finally pointing firmly in the direction of twelve other banks for similar Libor fixing crimes it is no surprise to discover Lloyds Banking Group and HBOS are amongst those within the US regulators and FSA’s sights. However, while I doubt previously exhausted Lloyds CEO Antonio Horta Osorio anticipated “bringing out their dead” in the summer of 2011would give rise to further billions being claimed in compensation for rate fixing, it is now clear it will not just be my own case which will continue to fester on HBOS and FOS desks for weeks to come while the fall out from this latest banking fraud discovery is laid to rest.

It is said corruption is authority, plus monopoly, minus transparency and while auditors have snoozed and the UK government remain complicit in their indifference to bankers crimes I, along with millions of other victims of banking avarice are left to suffer the consequences and despite public outrage both at home and abroad, unsurprisingly No. 10 are happy to announce there is to be no retrospective action taken with regard to the banks as “we can only use the law as it is and as it stands”.  Sadly, as is the case in so many instances, the law insists the loss of my financial future is too remote for there to be any recourse.

Thirty fifth US president John F. Kennedy said, “Economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of people remain in poverty, while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance” and despite the best efforts of the US and the UK regulators it is common knowledge that while nobody is above the law, power regularly makes people invisible.

It is for this reason banking crime continues pay.