Sunday, 30 December 2012

All Sants' Day

Son in law of Islamic prophet Mohammed and first male convert to Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib once said, “One who acquires power cannot avoid favouritism” and in spite of four years of public outrage over the impotence of the UK’s regulators and a tumultuous term at the helm of the Financial Services Authority, for former banker and recently retired chief executive of the FSA (2007-2012), these ancient words have proved wholly true.

Infamously accused by MP’s of being asleep at the wheel at the height of the UK’s bank bailouts, for Hector Sants 2012 has been a remarkably good year. With an annual pay package rumoured to be worth a comfortable three million pounds for a regulatory position at Barclays and a knighthood coming his way in the New Year it is extremely hard to marry his current good fortune with a track record which found him napping while the UK’s banksters reaped havoc with the lives of everyone but their own. As a direct result of the FSA’s negligence, countless people have lost their homes, their livelihoods and their financial futures and aside from those who have been tricked by the banks into purchasing PPI, the majority have received no restitution for losses which occurred because the FSA, under the guidance of Hector Sant, chose not to,
  • Regulate responsibly
  • Prosecute banking criminality
  • Protect the banks customers
The banks Hector Sants regulated,
  • Fraudulently sold unsuitable products to their customer to increase their profits
  • Manipulated Libor rates to serve their own interests and camouflage their exposure to risk
  • Disguised their flawed loan books and sold them as blue chip low risk investments to negate their losses
  • Insured themselves against a property crash they knowingly created
Hector Sant did little to stop them. 

I can only concluded that the favours of the powerful heading Hector Sants' way over the coming months can only be for Hector Sants' services to banksters and not banking. Speaking as a victim of the notorious Halifax Bank of Scotland who has unsuccessfully fought for the last four years to secure the assistance of both the FSA and the FOS in my mortgage mis-selling case, the decision to honour individuals whose actions were pivotal to onset of the banking crisis only serves to illustrate how these failure continue to be rewarded leaving the rest of us to pay the price of the financial sector’s avarice.

Ali ibn Abu Talib also said,“As long as fortune is favouring you, your defects will remain covered” and if the New Years honours list is an accurate measure of policy, it seems papering over the the cracks remains very much the order of the day. 

Little wonder the banksters believe they are above the law.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Whitewash and Christmas

Former United States Presidential Candidate, three times governor of Colorado and lawyer, Richard Lamm, once said, “Christmas is a time when kids tell adults what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it” yet despite four long years in the grips of a global financial crisis it remains an unwelcome fact that both adults and kids are still paying the price of a banking crisis deficit which lined our banksters pockets with millions while their regulators condoned and excuse them.

During the past year we have been encouraged to believe 2012 was to be the year in which regulation and banking reform would finally make a difference.

“CEO’s are ultimately accountable for the way their staff are incentivised, so we expect them to take a real interest in fixing this [and] we have made sure the firms where we found failings are fixing their incentive schemes, improving governance and controls and, in the worst cases, checking past sales to identify if mis-selling has occurred.”

“The occupy movement has been successful in its efforts to popularise the problems of the global financial system for one simple reason : they are right” and “policy makers like me will need [their] support in delivering radical change” while this “quiet but unmistakable leaf is being turned” by our bankers.

     What I want to see is [banking reform] recommendations made quickly so that we can get on and implement them, which is, I think what the people of this country want to see".
    However, despite encouraging words, the talk of 2012  proved cheap and instead of our banking fraternity calculating the prospects of repaying their ill gotten gains, it is only EU threats to cap their remunerations to a modest couple of million which have captured their undivided attention while, in complete contrast to the lifestyle afforded the favored few who waged economic war on the masses, the victims of their banking crimes continue to endure,

  • Widespread and economically damaging unemployment  
  • Austerity measures which have cost the average family more than twenty pounds a week
  • Possession order applications against UK homes filed, on average, every two and half minutes

“ It takes time to recover and we've got to do more. We’re going to do more. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and do everything possible to get business going in Britain, to get housing going, to get jobs going.”

However, if Andrew Bailey, chief executive designate of the Prudential Regulatory Authority’s words are to be believed, nothing could be further from the truth. Without a shadow of a doubt it appears,
  •    Some banks are just too big to fail
  •    Some banks are just too big to jail

And unlike the rest of society,

  •    Some bankers enjoy carte blanche to operate outside the law 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “A good conscience is a continual Christmas” and while I cannot pretend my four years of fighting and two years of complaining to the FOS about HBOS  is in any way reminiscent of an eternal Christmas, I cannot help but wonder how those responsible for the avarice and arrogance which brought about levels of widespread hardship likened only to that of a world war have, despite all corporate, governmental and regulatory attempts to whitewash their crimes, enjoyed the festive traditions of proffering goodwill to all men or the peace of a good conscience during the fourth Christmas of this ongoing economic crisis.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Delusions and Grandeur

Fifth century teacher, Buddhist monk and patriarch Bodhidharma once said, “The ignorant mind with its infinite afflictions, passions and evils is rooted in three poisons; greed, anger and delusion. Yet despite sixteen centuries of “progress” it is evident from the Parliamentary Banking Commission’s recent and lengthy interrogations these attributes have played a pivotal role in the birth of a UK banking crisis from which the Halifax Bank of Scotland has emerged as one of its most disreputable players.

Teetering on the brink of collapse in 2008, this once well thought of three hundred year old bank’s undisclosed toxic loan book was not only threatening its own survival but, after its Lloyds Banking Group takeover in January 2009, was the reason the tax payer was required to fund a twenty billion pound bailout and shareholders lost forty million pounds in share values. Formerly Britain safest bank, Lloyds is now 41% taxpayer owned while the overall financial impact of the banking crisis has been likened to that of the Second World War and is likely to cost the taxpayer in excess of sixty billion. Some say it will take as much as thirty eight years for the UK to fully recover.

However, despite these catastrophic events, the key HBOS’s players in this economic nightmare remain determined not to shoulder their responsibilities and, aside from some long overdue valueless apologies, remain unprepared to admit a reign of unprecedented greed peppered with unadulterated delusions of grandeur have cost hundreds of thousands of people their homes, their livelihoods and their financial futures. Instead of offerings of truth and transparency the Parliamentary Banking Commission has been subject to a plethora of repetitive and evasive attempts to explain why, despite previously justifying their obscene levels of remuneration on the grounds of their huge burden of responsibility, the blame for HBOS’s failure and the subsequent losses suffered by their shareholders, their customers and the taxpayer, should not rest with them.

Washing his hands of any knowledge of the “innovative” lending products and high risk strategies which brought Halifax Bank of Scotland to its knees, former 2001-2008 Chairman Lord Stevenson told MP’s his £815,000 part time role at HBOS along with his limited knowledge of banking left him ignorant of the “errors” which led to HBOS’s collapse. Conveniently forgetting he had once bragged to the FSA, in writing, that he “regards himself as a knowledgeable and well briefed” chairman who had confidence in HBOS’s “safe” position a matter of months before its near demise, did nothing to encourage this life peer who once said he would be cross if he was ever thought “dim”, to admit his culpability. 

Equally immersed in his own spin, HBOS deputy chairman (2001- 2009) Sir Ron Garrick, who, in exchange for three ten hour meetings annually over nine years, enjoyed fees totaling 1.322 million pounds, told MP's it was "by far and away the best board he had ever sat on". Convinced of both its transparency and integrity he chose to turn either a blind or ignorant eye to the fact that during his chairmanship 69% of the banks corporate loan book should never have been lent.

Repeatedly denying all knowledge of the FSA’s concerns over HBOS’s residential lending while endorsing the ridicule of those trying to abide by regulatory rules and infamously dismissing HBOS whistle blower Paul Moore in 2004, the former HBOS Chief Executive from 1999-2006 Sir James Crosby described the off loading of two thirds of his HBOS shares on his departure from the helm of his toxic sinking ship as simply balancing his portfolio. On top of the profits from this timely manoeuvre Crosby further profited from his failures with eight million pounds in bonuses and a£572,000 a year in pension.

With a general lack of banking experience as his excuse, Andy Hornby, (HBOS’s Chief Executive from 2006-2009) said,“ I bitterly regret that we did not foresee the possibility of wholesale markets closing for one whole year” and offered “his heartfelt apologies for what happen to HBOS”. However, even without the benefit of banking expertise, it is easy to see how empty these apologies are in the light of Paul Moore's warning to Hornby's predecessor James Crosby in 2004, that lending “money to people who have no jobs, no provable income and no assets” and then force feeding them products they don’t need inevitably impacts on the confidence of financial markets. Surely common sense dictated that sanctioning the launch of a another toxic product in the form of a residential mortgage product offering customers a 125% loan to value in November 2006 would be unlikely to aid market confidence or limit exposure to risk.

World renowned chess player, historian and author Henry Thomas Buckle once said, “Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it. It is no surprised to learn those at HBOS’s helm when it neared collapse are still operating in “cloud cuckoo land”. Their denials only serve to highlight the unanswerable detachment they still enjoy from the billions in losses they socialized, the obscene rewards they were paid for failure and the consequences their delusions and greed have had on their victims. Speaking as one of the many whom HBOS chose to treat as cannon fodder, I can only wholeheartedly hope, one day very soon, the regulatory society which prepared these crimes will finally acquire the courage to regard those who commit them as criminals.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Priceless Principals

Fifteenth century Parisian nobleman and moralist author Francois de la Rochefoucauld, once said, “The glory of great men should always be measured by the means they have used to acquire it” and while the parliamentary commission on banking standards continue to haul HBOS’s infamous Lord Stevenson, Sir James Crosby and Andy Hornby over luke warm coals my own attentions have once again turned  to the lengthy process of compiling my overvaluation case against the Bank of Scotland.

Now in receipt of both the Financial Ombudsman Service's award of compensation for their mishandling of my case and their written assurances that my Bank of Scotland complaint will be, from now on, closely monitored throughout its journey towards a swift and fair conclusion,  I wrongly assumed it would be the Bank of Scotland themselves who would initially respond to my accusations of mis-selling. However, according to their most recent piece of correspondence it is to be Birmingham Midshires who are under instruction to take up the reins of my complaint and it is they who now wish me to outline my concerns and indicate to them what I would consider to be a favorable outcome.

A little shocked to find I am addressing yet another group of individuals in my quest for justice, I am even more surprised to discover that twenty one months after I first appealed to the FOS to investigate my complaint, and almost four years since I  originally complained to HBOS, it is not only my adversaries who have undergone a transformation but my own approach to our circumstances has altered too. Whereas once I would have been elated to receive a mere whisper of compassion and eternally grateful at the suggestion of a stay of execution, after four excruciating years in HBOS induced financial purgatory my broadening education of all things bankster leaves me with no plans to plead for debt forgiveness on compassionate grounds.  Instead I recently wrote the following in reply to Birmingham Midshires' request.

“You have asked me to give you an understanding of what a satisfactory outcome would be for me.  I have lost my home, my livelihood, my financial future and my health and because of HBOS’s actions I have been persecuted by debt collectors for four years.  This has resulted in PSTS for both my husband and I together with long standing depression, threats of suicide on my husband’s part and in my case the complete loss of every hair on my body.  My five children have had no alternative but to stand by and watch my husband and I crumble while HBOS have, for four very long years, showed no empathy, no understanding and would not even allow us to cover our mortgage payments with rental income to preserve our home for the future.  As you will now no doubt understand from what I have said, our losses are huge and have extended far beyond mere financial redress.

Given the above, what would you consider a ‘suitable outcome’?”

Francoise de la Rochefoucauld also said, “The principal point of cleverness is to know how to value things just as they deserve” and with this new found perspective firmly in mind I now await, with interest, Birmingham Midshires’ reply.