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.


  1. What a good piece Caroline - please keep going. The drip, drip, drip process of getting the messages out will deliver the result we all want in due course. I salute you.

    1. Thanks again for your kind words of encouragement Ashley and really hope you are correct about the drip, drip process eventually delivering results.

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    1. Many thanks for your complimentary comments on this post Hajj umrah. Its good to know what I write is finally being heard and has encouraged you to follow. I write in the hope that public interest in the plight of the victims of the banking crisis might eventually be heard over the delusionary declarations of our banksters. Really appreciate your interest.

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