Wednesday, 20 March 2013

International Happiness Day

Self improvement guru, lecturer, and author of How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Brekenridge Carnegi once said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it” and today, on International Happiness Day, I could not agree more.

Once devastated to the point of ill health I am relieved to say I am no longer the woman who could once be found underweight, completely bald from stress and cowering in her soon to be repossessed home. Police officers from the Armed Response Unit do not now frequent my drive to discourage angry tradesmen from laying siege and the threat of a claw hammer to my husband’s head is not what I think of when I hear a knock at my door. No more do I endure the involuntary stomach flips which used to go hand in hand with a glimpse of the postman approaching my house and neither do I answer each and every phone call with the trepidation of a woman braced for the onslaught of hard line debt collectors and their verbal abuse.

It has taken almost five years, upwards of three hundred and fifty letters, forty or more debt counselling consultations, three full blown Financial Ombudsman Service investigations, one hundred and fifty five blog posts, twenty thousand two hundred and ninety four page views,  one thousand nine hundred and ninety six tweets,  an inordinate amount of political and economic reading,  numerous phone calls, countless comments on facebook together with thousands and thousands of man hours to discover that although happiness is not dependent on what I have, where I am or what I am doing, happiness is definitely about having something to hope for.

American author and essayist Elizabeth Gilbert once said, “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it” and although financially our circumstances have remained unchanged, I am very pleased to report that by fighting, striving and insisting I have not only discovered that I have been a victim of mortgage fraud but I have also found someone who investigates financial fraud on behalf of clients trapped by the wrongdoing of lenders and their associates who is prepared to take my case.

Because of this I now most definitely have hope and it is for this reason, today on International Happiness Day, I feel truly happy!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Ridiculous Enemies

Roman economist, lawyer and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero once said,” There is no sanctuary so holy that money cannot profane it, no fortress so strong that money cannot take it by storm” and while bonus pots continue to unashamedly reward the untouchables for their ever increasing list of banking failures, it is no surprise to find the words of this ancient Roman theorist still ring uncomfortably true.

Reputedly focused only on electoral gain, Cameron and Osborne do nothing to bring our elitist banking fraudsters to account while regulatory figure heads Turner and Wheatley prefer to promote the fallacy that the dirty deeds of banking avarice are but a distasteful memory of the unregulated past. In preference to making use of the laws of incorporation  to the secure the prosecution of those who chose to serve themselves at the expense of the majority, banking losses remain socialized while those who condoned them keep the wealth their dishonesty has afforded them.

In contrast, the  opportunities to seek recompense for those who fell foul of this culture of miss selling and manipulation are limited by way of cut backs to legal aid and the withdrawal of funding to charitable organisations such as the CAB. Yet, driven by the terror of an alternative which could herald the breakdown of the current financial system (not to mention the loss of influential friends and their much valued votes) our two faced politicians have left the victims of this criminal banking culture abandoned and defenseless in the jaws of their oppressors. As one would expect the ongoing governmental trend to pretend and placate the voters rather than address the root cause of the banking crisis, has done nothing to deter the same self serving and morally bereft people who now insist that lessons have been learned.

In the real world it is business as usual for the bankers and despite much talk about plans to serve both the economy and the customer, the long suffering individual is still being persecuted and bullied into untenable submission. The cases below represent the tip of a huge iceberg which is unlikely to feature on any politician or regulator's radar because, unlike powerful corporations with budgets for legal and financial advice, the individuals concerned have once again been hung out to dry having been left with no alternative but to succumb to the whims of the all powerful banks demands and then crawl away to seek some quiet solitude in order to lick their wounds. This is because many have neither the stomach , the knowledge or the means by which to stand up to the wanton disregard of the banking fraternity they are forced to deal with.

Over the past few months I have discovered;

HSBC, who laundered 600 million in drugs money and paid only the equivalent to a few weeks profit in fines as a consequence, are unprepared to renegotiate the terms of a 15% LTV mortgage of an employed professional woman, and a mother of three, who cannot make ends meet now her husband has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. She has never missed a payment and had originally planned to repay her loan in five years time. She has been told by HSBC she has no alternative but to sell her beloved family home of twenty years as quickly as possible.

HFC, a key offender in the miss sold PPI scandal, have repeatedly told a chronically ill widow that her 30% LTV mortgage must be repaid in full. She has been advised her mortgage cannot be rescheduled  (her husband died without sufficient  life assurance to repay the loan) despite having made every payment in full every month for twenty years and a guarantee from her pension provider confirming she can afford to continue to pay. She is faced with the unpalatable prospect of selling her lovingly restored home as quickly as possible.

Barclays, who made a healthy profit from the manipulation of LIBOR rates, repeatedly told an 85 year old woman who believed she had purchased a lifetime mortgage  at 20% LTV that she would have to repay the outstanding balance on her mortgage with immediate effect or face the ordeal of the bank applying to the courts to take possession of her home. On attempting to initiate a formal complaint she was told it was unlikely to be dealt with until after her house had been forcibly sold.


HBOS, who have earned themselves the reputation of being the worst bank in the world , unnecessarily forced the sale on my home rather than allow me to rent it to cover my mortgage payments, spent the past four and half years telling me a woman has no right to be informed separately from her husband about mortgage arrears if her husband is already in discussion with them and, having made use of a fictitious purchase price and purchase date in order to over value my home and sell me a mortgage in the first place, now tell me the discovery of these falsified facts has nothing to do with them. Furthermore, in true HBOS bully boy fashion, I have received two demands from their debt collections agency despite HBOS’s own acknowledgement that they understand my case is currently under investigation by the Financial Ombudsman Service.

French enlightenment writer, historian, philosopher and master of wit, Voltaire, once said, “I have only made but one prayer to God, a very short one: O Lord make my enemies ridiculous, and God granted it” and if recent events are anything to go by, ridiculous enemies appear not to be the exclusive domain of Voltaire!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Learning Difficulties

First Viscount Saint Alban, philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist and author, Francis bacon once said," It's not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong: not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich: not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned: and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity" and although I have drawn strength from words such as these throughout each and every excruciating year spent in the ruthless jaws of the Halifax Bank of Scotland, I suspect for the vast majority of those I am forced to deal with, strength of resolve, fair practice and  integrity occupy a negligible space among their tasks in hand  and  this week’s correspondence has offered  little opportunity to think otherwise.

Following receipt of  the Financial Ombudsman Service’s confirmation  that my miss selling case has been accepted  and  is now awaiting allocation  to an adjudicator, I have  requested a copy of  every single document relating to my Bank of Scotland  mortgage from the following organisations.

  • The solicitor who conveyed my mortgage
  • The Bank of Scotland archive
  • The surveyors  instructed to value my property
  • The mortgage broker who introduced our application to HBOS

Excited in anticipation of the information my actions might afford me, I was delighted to find my solicitor happily agreed to put the matter in hand immediately and, in spite of a history of reluctance to assist in my compliant,  I am equally pleased to report HBOS have agreed  to furnish me with the information I require by 1 April.

Both the surveyors and the broker have not.

Much to my astonishment, not only have I discovered the surveyors instructed to value my home were salaried HBOS employees, but because of a specific instruction by the Bank of Scotland at the time of application  stating I should not be supplied with the valuation, these same HBOS employees remain unwilling to part with any information  now. Furthermore, the broker who placed our £790,000 mortgage with HBOS in 2006, and by so doing earned himself a healthy £4,000 fee, now regrets they are unable to supply copies of documents relating to my mortgage application because their regulators do not require them to keep records for this length of time.

As my recently acquired advocate and I smell a rat, I have written to the Financial Services Authority to ask for their comments on the mortgage brokers letter. I now wait with interest to learn the outcome.

American novelist and author Lloyd Alexander said, “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and  not finding it than from  learning the answer itself” and  while some continue to  seek answers which negate bonus caps and others prefer profits to serve the greater good, I plan to practice the art of asking questions of HBOS because I am convinced  it is as organisation where fraud  has come naturally and because of this I am now paying the price.