Monday, 10 November 2014

Up Close and Personal

American author, Amelia Earhart once said, “You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward” and although my lengthy bank battling journey has fallen a long way short of any results, there is no disputing my decision to act has rewarded me with an enlightening education.

During the course of my investigation into how my family and I became the victims of the financial crisis, I have learned,
  • Bankers intentionally flooded the market with financial products which were open to abuse in order to increase their market share and their bonus’
  •  Regulators and auditors intentionally misled us when the banks culture of greed began to implode
  •  Politicians intentionally feigned outrage and offered empty promises of redress to avert civil unrest.

 Six painful years, five lever arch files and two unsuccessful FOS complaints later I have now reached the following conclusions:
  • Both the FCA and the FOS’s allegiance lies only with the banks and not their victims
  • Austerity measures have made it nigh on impossible for the victims of banking crime to access justice
  • And the voice of the individual,  however loud,  is all but inaudible

 Still void of success in the face of mortgage broker fraud, I have taken the following action;
  • Applied for and obtained (via household legal insurance I purchased in 2005/6)  agreement to spend £50,000 with DAS Legal Services to pursue Karrek Financial Management Ltd for criminal negligence
  • Attended an SME Alliance event for what proved to be a very interesting meeting which not only gave me a great deal of insight into other banking crimes but  also provided me with the opportunity to meet other victims and access professional bank battling expertise
  • And, written the following letter summarising the criminal negligence of HBOS's panel approved mortgage broker to send along with 30 pages of evidence, to my newly appointed DAS lawyer, the Devon and Cornwall police and a barrister I met through the SME Alliance who has kindly agreed to look at my findings,

“Dear [All],

Further to our telephone conversation follows an outline of my case along with supporting evidence.

In March 2006, having discussed our financial circumstances with Karrek Financial Management Ltd through whom we had previously purchased life cover, my husband was told by their mortgage advisor ****** ****** our monthly outgoings could be dramatically reduced if we agreed to switch our existing £725,000 mortgage with TMB to an interest only discounted mortgage with the Bank of Scotland and restructure our short term borrowings. He advised us to increase the debt secured against our home by firstly taking a further £65,000 by way of a Bank of Scotland further advance, secondly by making use of a £40,000 drawn down which, underwritten at outset, would be made available to us after three months of regular monthly interest payments and thirdly by taking a three month payment holiday for which we would also be eligible after making three monthly interest payments. His recommendation was to use all the additional funds raised against the remaining equity in our home to repay credit cards (see Doc 1. copy application form). Keen to alleviate his cash flow problems at a time when the terminal illness of two of his closest relatives (his mother and brother) was making it impossible to divide his time effectively between the needs of his family and the demands of his business, my husband agreed.

I have since discovered that not only is securing credit card debt against a family home a direct contravention of the Mortgage Code and financial regulations but the method the broker used to obtain this remortgage/ further advance was a blatant abuse of their position of trust and nothing short of fraudulent. Instead of advising how best to arrange our finances in the light of our circumstances, the broker’s objective appears to have been to affect a personal gain for themselves (in the form of a handsome introducer fee. (See Doc 2. Copy mortgage offer) by switching an existing mortgage and our credit card borrowings for an entirely unsuitable mortgage product which was not only unaffordable from outset but required falsified information to be used on the application form in order to obtain a Bank of Scotland mortgage offer.

  • After a financial fact finding telephone conversation with my husband, the mortgage application (which we never saw) was submitted online (see Doc 3) by the broker whom we never met using false information which was tailored to fit the Bank of Scotland’s underwriting requirements. We did not supply the information the broker wrote on the application form (see affidavit Doc. 4).
  • There were no acquisition costs to pay, neither were there solicitors or surveyors to instruct as the cost of the valuation and the conveyance, along with instructions, were either taken care of by the lender or added to the advance.
  • And, on 30 March 2006, after being told by the broker verbally (again by telephone) we had received a mortgage offer for £790,000 from the Bank of Scotland as a result of him submitting our application on line we were sent, and duly signed, the declaration page and the direct debit mandate of an otherwise blank application form. There then followed another declaration sheet, once again without a completed application form, approximately two weeks later (see Doc. 5).

As a result of his efforts, the broker earned almost £4000 and we, unwittingly, agreed to move from a very tight corner which could have been rectified by the sale of our house, to an impossible situation amounting to tens of thousands of pounds in arrears (see arrears statement Doc 6), a £217,000 mortgage shortfall (see shortfall statement Doc 7) which occurred from the forced sale of our home in 2009 and six long years of battling with an unsympathetic bank while trying to establish precisely what happened to put us in such a position.  

Had HBOS not sent me an entirely unsolicited copy of our original application form (minus the declaration pages) by way of an explanation to some wildly inaccurate claims they were making about the original purchase price and original purchase date of our house in response to my over valuation complaint to them, I might never have discovered the fraudulent nature of the information the application form contained. This evidence first came to light in January 2013 and, as a result of a complaint I then made to the Financial Ombudsman Service about overvaluation, irresponsible lending and the falsified information on our mortgage application, I was told (in January 2014 after a full FOS investigation had been completed) my case should have cited the mortgage broker and not HBOS.  Needless to say the FOS were unable to uphold my complaint as it was deemed HBOS were faultless because they were not the appointed advisors for the mortgage sale.

The application form which ************ completed states that the mortgage product applied for was a sale he “advised” as a representative of Karrek Financial Management Ltd.  It also states our accounts were available and the mortgage was not self certified.  It goes on to claim the following;
  • ************** had face to face contact with both my husband and I during the application process. This is completely untrue. We have never, on any occasion, met ************ and all communications between my husband and ************ were via telephone, email, fax or post. I have had no face to face or telephone contact with ************.
  • Both ************and Karrek Financial Management claim they saw our original passports for money laundering purposes. This is completely untrue. We were merely asked to send photocopies of our passports and a council tax bill both of which have been signed off by Karrek Financial Management in handwriting which does not appear to be ************'s. (see passport Doc 8 and council tax bill photo copies Doc 9)
  • Our earned income is shown on the application form as approximately 249k plus 75k with a further 50k in rental income for the years 2005, 2004 and 2003. Our actual income, as illustrated by our company accounts and Inland Revenue supplied tax returns, amounted to little more than 50k per annum in total for the years stated. (see financial evidence Doc 10)
  • The purchase price and purchase date of the property is shown as £890,000 in 2004 when in fact it was purchased in 2000 for £250,000. (see Land Registry search. Doc 11)
  • The age of the property is shown as 20 years old when in fact it could be as much as 300 years old or more and part of the property is thought to have been recorded in the Doomsday Book. (see Grade II listing Doc 12)
  • The application states the property has five bedrooms and three living rooms when it actually has four bed rooms and two living rooms (see estate agent details Doc 13)

When I reported the details of this fraud to the Bank of Scotland, I was advised never to contact them again. Next I reported the matter to the FCA who were insistent that what had happened appeared to be fraud and therefore beyond the remit of both themselves and the FOS. The FCA advised me to contact the police. This I have done and my case details have been logged and given a crime reference number. The Serious Fraud Office for the Devon and Cornwall Police advised me to seek legal advice.

Having initially spoken to the Avon and Somerset Police Serious Fraud Office in August 2014 to inquire as to whom I should report this financial crime, I was told the Bristol police had uncovered a similar mortgage broker fraud amounting to 11 million pounds. This week Swinton Insurance Brokers directors were fined £900,000 by the FCA for creating an over incentivised culture which promoted miss selling and wrongdoing. It is estimated they will be required to pay 11 million pounds in customer compensation. I strongly suspect the same unscrupulous methods have been equally lucrative for Karrek Financial Management Ltd  but to date I have been unable to get to the bottom of why they were removed from HBOS’ lending panel during my applications processing. (see HBOS screen print Doc 14).Nor have I been able find out if they have been the subject of other similar complaints or any formal regulatory disciplinary action.  So far, I have requested this information from HBOS, Karrek, the FCA and Openwork broker network support.  My requests have either been ignored or denied (see Karrek’s response letter Doc 15).

While HBOS’ dubious underwriting practices undoubtedly helped facilitate this fraud, their only response to my findings has been to say they acted in good faith.  However, in order to assess my losses I would like to know if the mortgage contract my husband and I thought we had with the Bank of Scotland is now void as a consequence of the fraudulent information contained therein. If this proves to be the case, does it follow that the Bank of Scotland unlawfully obtained a possession order to force the sale of my home? If so, do I have a case for recompense against HBOS as well as Karrek Financial Management?

In addition to the copy of the original mortgage application, I have in my possession a number of pieces of correspondence between HBOS, their panel approved broker Karrek and us, as well as certified accounts and Inland Revenue printouts of our income at the time.  I also have conveyance details for our original purchase of the property and HBOS screen prints stating the broker was removed from the panel during the application process, all of which I have enclosed with this letter. However, despite my repeated requests, I have been unable to secure any documentation from Karrek as they say they destroyed the file once the mortgage was 6 years old. More recently, September 2014, I wrote to both Karrek and their network support organisation Openwork to advise them I plan to take the matter of my falsified application form further. I have not received acknowledgement from either.

In the meantime I have, on the instructions of the police, informed the Bank of Scotland (formerly HBOS) that they have been a victim of fraud and asked them to file a police report too (see Doc 15a). I have received no letter of acknowledgement or response.
I believe the only witness’ I have are employees of the Bank of Scotland, namely those who underwrote our mortgage initially, Jill Miller and Moira Easton (see underwriting correspondence Doc  5) and Mr David Groves in Bank of Scotland Customer Services who sent me my first copy of the original application in January 2013 (see Doc 15b) without the signed declaration pages, when I complained about the inaccurate figures he was quoting while he was investigating my over- valuation/irresponsible underwriting complaint. (see my letter asking for declaration pages Doc 16).

Had ************ of Karrek Financial Management not falsified our mortgage application to secure us an unsuitable and unaffordable mortgage against our home, we would have had no alternative but to sell it for the £925,000 value the Bank of Scotland surveyor gave it at the time (see doc 17). A valuation which both the Bank of Scotland and the Financial Ombudsman have both later endorsed as fair and accurate in my FOS complaint of 2013. Had we sold in March 2006 instead of remortgaging and taking a further advance to refinance, we would have received £200,000 after repaying our TMB mortgage, less agents and solicitors fees.  Instead, ************’s reckless self serving advice led to the Bank of Scotland obtaining a possession order in November 2008 because we were unable to meet our interest payments from outset. This gave the Bank of Scotland the power to force us to sell our home for a mere £665,000 two years later (see arrears statement Doc 6).  Furthermore, I would not have spent the past six years suffering the immense stress of the Bank of Scotland’s relentless and ongoing pursuit of a £217,000 mortgage shortfall which was created from this fire sale.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely”

Political theorist, philosopher, author and reporter, Hannah Arendt, once said, “Confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing” and after seven banking crisis ridden years filled with endless excuses for doing nothing and a plethora of meaningless confessions of collective banking and regulatory guilt, I am sincerely hoping £50,000 of legal funding will not only provide me with an audible voice with which to pursue our criminally negligent mortgage broker but I am also eager for it to provide me a long awaited opportunity to get up close and very personal with HBOS!

As ever, I now wait without patience, for news.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wolves, Sheep and Regulators

Twice elected US president, Radical Republican and former union Army General, Hiram Ulysses Grant once said, "In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten and then he who continues to attack, wins" and after three months of a bank battling impasse in which the Bank of Scotland's debt collection have been eerily silent, I have reach the conclusion an armoury of evidence is my only hope of defence should they chose to launch another attack. Without it, I am nothing more than a sitting duck.

Keen to leave no stone unturned, I embarked on another quest for information. I sent,
  • Another request to the mortgage broker who submitted my falsified application to the Bank of Scotland in March 2006, this time via a DSAR, along with formal notification I suspect them of fraud
  • A DSAR to the mortgage broker’s network support organisation requesting any information they might have relating to disciplinary action taken against the broker during the application process of my mortgage and a letter advising them I have put Karrek on notice
  • An application  to my contents insurance company making a request for legal advice with regard to whether or not my falsified application renders my contract with the Bank of Scotland void, legal representation in the event Bank of Scotland wish to dispute my findings through the courts and some telephone time with a legal representative to explore the merits of a negligence claim against the broker
  • A formal request to the FCA under the Freedom of Information Act requesting all information pertaining to any disciplinary actions or formal investigations relating to the mortgage broker, their network support firm and the Bank of Scotland. I have also specifically requested any information which would shed light on why (according the BoS' screen notes) the mortgage broker was removed from the  Bank of Scotland’s panel of brokers during the processing of my mortgage application in March 2006.
Believing my requests could provide me with pivotal evidence to support my claim that both I and the Bank of Scotland have been victims of mortgage broker fraud, I have also sent,
  •  An outline of my findings to the Devon and Cornwall Police and requested my case be kept open while I await further evidence.
Ten weeks have now passed and I have received,
  •  No response from the broker to my DSAR
  •  No response or even an acknowledgement from either the broker or their network support regarding my letters putting them on notice
  • No file of  information from the brokers network support team on grounds that the DSAR I made only covers personal information and the data they hold is not personal to me
  • No reply from my legal insurers
Thankfully I have received,
  • No objection from the Devon and Cornwall Police to leaving  my case open while I collect and collate further evidence.
However, I have also received,
  • A totally meaningless five page reply from the FCA which concludes with, “we can find no record of a relationship between Karrek Financial Management and the HBOS lending panel and  with regard to all other points of your request “to confirm or deny that we hold any information specifically relating to enforcement or disciplinary action against either ...[the broker] or [their network support provider] Openwork Ltd would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of a person or a firm (particularly the firms mentioned) and would, or would be likely to,  prejudice the exercise by the FCA of its functions under Financial services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSMA”). Therefore, we are unable to confirm or deny under section 43 (commercial interests) and section 31 (Law enforcement) of the Act whether or not we hold any information relating to action taken by us against these firms.” They further state, “the FCA also has a policy of not commenting publicly on whether or not it is investigating a particular individual or firm.
Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs and later 74th  United States Secretary of the Treasury,  Henry Merritt “Hank” Paulson, Jr. once warned, “There is a very real danger that financial regulation will become a wolf in sheep's clothing” but if my own experiences are any measure, the complete reverse has proved to be much closer to the truth and, while some would still have us believe these very same regulators are the friends of the victims of banking crime, my six years long investigation into a Bank of  Scotland driven, broker implemented mortgage churning fraud would very much indicate otherwise.

With regulatory friends like these, who needs enemies?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Notorious Difficulties

Democratic socialist and one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century, Eric Arthur Blair (otherwise known as George Orwell), once said, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -forever” and, as a result of this week’s disappointing developments, it’s hard not to imagine the human face being stamped on is destined to be mine.

In March 2006, having discussed our financial circumstances with a financial advisor/mortgage broker, my husband was told we could reduce our outgoings by more than half if we agreed to switch our existing mortgage of £725,000 to the Bank of Scotland and take a further advance of £65,000, secured against our home, to repay our credit cards. Desperate to alleviate his cash flow problems at a time when the terminal illness of two of his closest relatives was making it impossible to divide his time effectively between the needs of his family and the demands of his business, he agreed.
  • The mortgage application (which we never saw) was submitted on line by a broker we never met
  • There were no acquisition costs to pay, neither were there solicitors or surveyors to instruct as the cost of the valuation and the conveyance, along with instructions, were taken care of by the lender.
  • And, on 30 March 2006, after being told by the broker we had received a mortgage offer for £790,000 from the Bank of Scotland, we signed the declaration page and the direct debit mandate of an otherwise blank application form.
As a result, the broker earned £4,500 and we unwittingly agreed to move from a very tight corner which could have been rectified by the sale of our house, to an impossible situation amounting to tens of thousands of pounds in arrears, a £217,000 shortfall following the forced sale of our home in 2009 and six long years of battling with an unsympathetic bank while trying to establish precisely what had gone on. Had HBOS not sent me an entirely unsolicited copy of our original application form (minus the declaration pages) by way of an explanation to some wildly inaccurate claims they were making about the original purchase price and original purchase date of our house, I might never have discovered the fraudulent nature of the information it contained.

Having reported the fraud to HBOS and been advised never to contact them again, I immediately reported the matter to the FCA who were insistent it was beyond the remit of both themselves and the FOS.  Because of this I was told I should go straight to the police and, encouraged by the diligence of Action Fraud's staff to record the details of my case and the news they could present the crime as an Abuse of a Position of Trust, I looked forward to being contacted by the Serious Fraud Office of the Devon and Cornwall Police.

However, all appears not to have been as it seemed as, without even looking at any of my documentary evidence, I am now told the police will not be investigating my claim of mortgage fraud as cases of this nature are,
  • Notoriously difficult to understand
  • Notoriously difficult to take forward if the real victim, namely the bank, does not come forward
  • Notoriously difficult to prove
I am further advised, 
  • I am not the victim of the crime and have therefore experienced no loss
  • I may well be considered complicit in the fraud as I gained from the brokers actions
  • At best, a fraudulent mortgage application is a civil matter or a case for the FOS
They suggest,
  • I bring the bank's irresponsible lending to the attention of the financial ombudsman and the financial regulators.
Politician, historian, author, political consultant and 58th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich once said, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you are tired of doing all the hard work you already did” yet despite the endless hard work of the past six years, this widely documented crime which was designed by the banks, implemented by unscrupulous brokers and facilitated by in house lawyers and solicitors, continues to go unpunished.

In the US the Bank of America recently agreed to pay $16.6 million in settlement for their mis-selling of mortgage backed securities in the run up to the financial crisis, but when it comes to justice for those of us who were coerced into the obtaining the unsuitable/mis-sold mortgages in the first place, there is none.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Truth and Understanding

Fourteenth century Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei once said, "All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered: the point is to discover them” and although discovering the truth about my Bank of Scotland mortgage has consumed my life for the best part of six years, understanding what the truth actually adds up to has only come to light during the past week.

Since the Bank of Scotland secured a court order to repossess my home in November 2008, disposed of it at a knockdown price in April 2009 leaving me with a £217,000 shortfall and then flatly refused to consider our circumstances or discuss their breaches in best practice, I have been kept  very busy.

I have;
  • Written countless letters to the FSA, the SRA, the FOS, the ICO, the Bank of Scotland, their debt collectors and the Bank of Scotland's CEO's Eric Daniels and Antonio Horta Osorio.
  • Scoured FB, twitter and the newspapers for both information and expertise
  • Used my 180 Life after Debt blog posts to find other individuals who have suffered at the hands of HBOS and in doing so secured more expertise
  • Compiled five lever arch files of evidence and information to support my case of complaint
This week, armed with all of the above, I have finally presented my findings to the police and, as a result of three phone calls to and from Action Fraud and the hour long telephone interview I gave, I have now been told the following;
  • The crime I have reported is to be taken forward as an “Abuse of a position of trust”
  • My mortgage application, which was falsified by a third party, ticks every box for mortgage fraud
  • As a result of my report, I must contact the Bank of Scotland once again.
To this end I wrote the following;

Dear Mr *******,

Mortgage Account No. ********-*/***/***
Crime Reference No.XXXX**********

Although you expressly stated in your letter of 24 July, “Any attempt to contact the Bank Of Scotland Plc (Halifax Division) regarding the above account will result in you being referred straight back to drysdenfairfax solicitors” , I have been asked by the police to advise the Bank of Scotland of the crime reference number I have been given for the mortgage fraud  I have reported to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (see above) and make the bank aware that it has also been the victim of the same mortgage fraud so it can file a report with Action Fraud as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

In addition, I am reliably informed that having a crime number will encourage an altogether different reaction to the one the Bank of Scotland has seen fit to mete out to me in the past. Furthermore, my much valued FB friends and Twitter followers expertise, combined with a few legal opinions a little closer to home, suggest the unlawful repossession of an individual’s home and a comprehensive paper trail to boot is pretty solid ground from which to pursue compensation.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the twentieth century, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, once said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is,” and, after six arduous years of searching for the truth, the Bank of Scotland boot  finally appears to be on the other foot and what's more,

The foot appears to be mine!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Maltesers and Madmen

The Maltese physician, inventor, author of Six Thinking Hats and the man who coined the term “lateral thinking”, Edward de Bono, once said, “Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations” and this has certainly proved the case for me in my fruitless attempts to get the Bank of Scotland to write off a mortgage shortfall their irresponsible lending culture, their gross incompetence and their rapacious greed created.

Throughout the past six unhappy years I have spent countless hours explaining;
  •  Neither my husband or I have anything more than a subsistence income with which to support our three children.
  • Neither my husband or I have any capital with which to repay an alleged mortgage shortfall of £217,00,
And, as a result of my recent findings, further explained,
  • Like me, HBOS has been a victim of broker mortgage fraud and, as a result of the falsifications which were submitted by the broker in an online application, their mortgage contract with my husband and I is not only void but cannot be enforced.
However, rather than respond to my repeated requests for documentary evidence to help support my case against the broker with the Cornish police, I have just returned from my much needed two week holiday with family to eight letters from the Bank of Scotland and their solicitors not only asking for payment in full but telling me;
  •       “We understand that this account is not in dispute”
  •    “There is no valid reason for it to remain unpaid”
  •        "We do not wish our request for payment “to have a detrimental impact on your personal finances”
Edward de Bono also said, “Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic” but after six years of flogging the HBOS dead horse I can only wonder...


Sunday, 18 May 2014

From Ashes to Ashes

Sixteenth century English poet, critic and writer Samuel Johnson once said, “Fraud and falsehood... dread examination. Truth invites it” and yet more than five years on since the near demise of HBOS, the long promised FSA/FCA investigation remains as elusive as the truth and the prosecution of those responsible.

Instead, some would have us believe the future is bright.
However in stark contrast,
For those who have paid the price of HBOS’ fraud and falsehood, the truth still falls a long way short of a revival and although Antonio Horta Osorio’s two years of hard work may well have “paid off” for him personally, for the vast majority of banking crisis victims, incomes (in real terms) have dropped, homes have been lost, austerity measures impact on every facet of their lives and legal assistance is even harder to access. Furthermore, while “new” mortgage rules may well reduce the number of miss sold mortgages in the future, they, along with the unsuprisingly similar “old rules”, remain nothing more than regulatory recommendations and, if the past truly is a reasonable indicator for the future, it would be fair to assume it is still just as unlikely there will not be much by way of consequence for those who continue to flout them. 

In truth the “ashes of the great recession” are very much part of  the landscape for the vast majority of us and not only do they fall a long way short of fuelling a revival, but instead they provide a harsh reminder of how little has changed for those who fiddled to secure immense returns while the UK economy burned. Furthermore, if the government and the regulators remain committed to endorsing criminal banking behavior with apathy, it will actively encourage the Antonio Horta Osario's of this world, their "hard working" executive offices and the toothless Financial Ombudsman Service to ignore the victims of the banking crisis too. Little wonder HBOS are unprepared to believe my six year old claim that my mortgage was arranged fraudulently or that my six week old request to supply me with further evidence to aid my case against their broker, even warrants a reply.

Influential English novelist, journalist and critic of social injustice Eric Arthur Blair, whose pen name was George Orwell, once said, “In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act” and I for one believe when it comes to HBOS, a much needed revolutionary act is long overdue.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Estimates and Equanimity

Stoic philosopher of service and duty, champion of equanimity in the face of conflict and the last of the five good Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius once said, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it: and this you have the power to revoke at any moment” and, in the face of the  Financial Ombudsman Services painfully disappointing decision to reject my Bank of Scotland mortgage fraud compliant, I have spent the past few weeks revoking its power to distress by investigating and collating my evidence in readiness to give to the police.

During the process of making inquiries aimed at presenting the clearest of pictures, I have discovered the following,
  • The Financial Ombudsman Service is not empowered to comment or rule on mortgage fraud and, according to the Financial Conduct Authority, should have made this clear to me from the outset.
  • My local Serious Fraud Office are currently dealing with numerous broker driven mortgage frauds which are almost identical in nature to that of my own case. 
  • Inland Revenue records show our taxable income for the preceding three years to our mortgage application was a mere 17% of that stated by the broker on our mortgage application.
  • The mortgage application submitted to HBOS in March 2006 was not (as I originally assumed) self-certified but instead a full status application offering our company’s accounts as evidence of income and,
  • Mortgage fraud can only be reported to the Serious Fraud Office in the district where the crime was committed.
Convinced this type of mortgage fraud was expertly designed by HBOS and merely implemented by the broker intermediary who introduced it, I made another request to HBOS’ executive team, this time asking them why they chose to remove the broker intermediary from their panel during the underwriting of my mortgage.

This was their response,

“With regards to your concerns about the removal of KMS from our intermediary panel, I have been in contact with our Credit Team and they have confirmed that both KMS and ******* ****** are still on our panel for intermediary business through the Halifax Brand under panel number***********...[and] the broker panel number [used previously] was not cancelled until October 2010 and was deleted as Arrangement Ended. This usually indicates a change of FSA status (such as principal) but is more likely to be due to the fact that the Bank of Scotland brand ceased taking introducer business in 2010. Therefore, our systems would update to show that the intermediary related to the panel number applicable to your application would no longer be on our panel as at today’s date.”

However, this lengthy and seemingly plausible explanation once again takes no account of the Bank of Scotland’s own underwriting screen notes for 2006 which clearly state,“The intermediary keyed for this application has been taken off the panel. Please refer to explain it for the appropriate course of action to take” which does not sound the least bit like a 2010 system update to me.Needless to say, I have now shared this information with Antonio Horta Osario’s executive team and am hoping they might  finally see fit to furnish me with a more meaningful reply.

British Indian novelist, essayist and author of Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie once asked, “How do you defeat terrorism?” His answer was, “Don’t be terrorized” and after six years of living with the terrifying consequences of a financial holocaust in which the Banksters of Scotland have played a significant part, I now live in hope that it will be information which finally sets me free.

As ever, I wait without patience for some results!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Recipe for Disaster

Take three perfectly good financial products,
  • One non status mortgage requiring no proof of income, a cautious valuation and client equity stake of 35%
  • One 100% mortgage requiring no client equity stake, a cautious valuation but belt and braces proof of taxable income and affordability
  • One 80% mortgage, a cautious valuation, belt and braces proof of taxable income and affordabilty offering discounted interest payments for the first two years
Add a large helping of political gain with nauseating proportions of deregulated bankster spin and mix well.

Throwing caution to the wind, allow evidence of income, equity and conservative valuations to float to the top, carefully remove and discard.

Using what is left, re-package as an innovative low risk mortgage product which will take the market by storm

Present finished article to the board in terms of anticipated personal returns and obtain consent to market.

Use highly incentivised bank staff to roll out new product to as many brokers and introducers as possible, turn a blind eye to their methods and pay all concerned on results

Insist all new applications are submitted online by the broker with declaration pages to follow after offer

Provide regulated mortgages of up to a 125% LTV having told brokers that applicants homes will not be valued conservatively and applicants incomes will not be verified.

Have your cake and eat it while watching with detached indifference for the cookies to crumble,

Leave the victims of widespread mortgage fraud to cook in their own juice,

And then, just like HBOS have done with my own case,

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

John F Kennedy once said, “The enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic” and, after five ineffectual years of mythical post crisis reform and regulation of the UK’s banking sector, the truth has not only failed to set me free but it has also failed to spark the Financial Ombudsman Service’s interest or ruffled a single untouchable HBOS  or Lloyds Banking Group feather.

In a last ditch attempt to persuade the dismissive and the disinterested of my sincerity, I have, over the past two weeks, implemented the following;
  • Prepared, sworn under oath and sent a statutory declaration to the FOS reiterating my claim that the mortgage application my broker submitted on line in 2006 contained false information which I did not supply.
  • Sent HBOS’ customer services department my eight page letter of complaint because, contrary to my expectations, the FOS declined to ask HBOS to comment on its contents as part of the complaints process
  • Simultaneously written to Lloyds Banking Group customer services, Lloyds Group Chief Executive Officer Antonia Horta Osario and Lloyds Group Chief Risk Officer Executive Juan Colombas, stating,
“Following the final decision from the FOS on 10 February 2014 it is now my opinion that the contract entered into in 2006 with the Bank of Scotland by myself and my husband is null and void. This is because it did not conform to due process and it was granted on false information which was supplied fraudulently by [a broker] and then negligently verified by HBOS’s underwriters M**** ******, S** ****** and J** ******.
As a result of the Ombudsman’s findings, together with information gleaned from a Data Subject Access Request, I am now of the opinion that I need to make a new complaint.

Yours faithfully”

Life After Debt


  • In an effort to understand the consequences a regulated  lender might suffer if they were found not to have complied with FCA rules, spoken at length with the FCA consumer helpline about my case.
As a result of my endeavours I have been advised;
  • The FOS have received my “letter” and attached it to my file. There is no mention of them changing their plans to publish the ombudsman’s ruling on my case on their website
  • HBOS’ Customer Services are unprepared to discuss my case any further and can only refer me back to the FOS’s recent ruling
  • HBOS’ Executive team are in receipt of my letter of complaint, it is very important to them and they will be responding to it shortly 
And the Financial Conduct Authority informs me;
  • The FOS are not empowered to rule or comment on cases of fraud
  • HBOS are duty bound by FCA rules to prove beyond reasonable doubt they took adequate measures during the underwriting of my mortgage to verify the information contained in my application was true
  • FCA rules run parallel to the law but, as guidelines, are not legally binding. Lenders are not required to keep compliance documentation for more than a year and the FCA, having asked for full details of the alleged perpetrators, strongly recommend I report my findings to Action Fraud or the police.
Thankfully, the tireless support, diligence and expertise of my FB friends has now put the latter very much in hand. 

Nineteenth century German born philosopher and author Arthur Schopenhauer believed, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed and third, it is accepted as being self-evident”. All I can now hope for is that, after six excruciating years of ridicule and violent opposition, the truth may finally become self evident in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office.

After all, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi;

 “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.” 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Washed Up

Irish playwright, journalist and co-founder of the London school of Economics, George Bernard Shaw once said, “Cruelty must be whitewashed by moral excuse and pretence of reluctance” and unsurprisingly my experience in the ineffectual hands of the Financial Ombudsman Service has amounted to nothing less.

Established in 2001 by parliament, the Financial Ombudsman Service is supposed to be an impartial and independent body which settles disputes between consumers and UK based businesses providing financial services. We are encouraged to believe the law requires the ombudsman to take into account relevant law and regulations, regulator's rules, guidance and standards, codes of practice, and (where appropriate) what he/she considers to have been good industry practice at the relevant time, in order to make decisions which are fair and reasonable. From a current case load of over 500,000 each year (a level which has swelled its ranks by four fold since the onset of the banking crisis in 2008), it is estimated the FOS rule in favour of the complainant in approximately 49% of cases.

As a result of my appeal to have my case against HBOS reviewed by an ombudsman, my FOS Final Response has not only dismissed the majority of my case as immaterial and irrelevant but my ombudsman states she has “difficulty in accepting” my claim that either HBOS or their mortgage broker acted fraudulently in order to secure my mortgage business.

I am told she, like my adjudicator, is;

“Not required to respond at ... length or to respond to each and every point raised” but instead has “considered the case in the light of the lending climate at the time [having] noted that the bank has said it will not be pursuing Mr and Mrs [Life after Debt] for the shortfall debt" (a statement which is completely untrue).

Despite the basis of my complaint being that my mortgage application was submitted on line by a broker I never met using an application form I never saw and information I did not supply, I am further advised;
  • “ The bank could not have been expected to know the information about the purchase price and date was untrue”
  • “The [brokers signature] on the application form [and the photo copied passports] confirms there was a face to face meeting”
  •  “The factual inaccuracies in the application...were signed as being true”
What is more she has also informed me, with complete disregard for my protestations that her findings are based on false assumptions and not the evidence, the FOS will be publishing her travesty of a ruling on my case on their website.

Former Chief Ombudsman Walter Merricks once said, “The FOS is an unusual creature. One I would suggest parliament would not have dared to create had the ground work not been laid by a series of voluntary initiatives. It is a one sided scheme offering an unlevel playing field broadly supported by those playing up hill...We do not have to pretend to find what the law is. We unashamedly make new law”.

After six whole years engaged in battle with HBOS which now includes a shambolic, whitewashed FOS investigation into my case of complaint, I have now been thrown straight back into the lawless clutches of one the most infamous banks and their debt collectors.

I find this not only to be immensely cruel, but also wholly immoral and completely unjust.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Guarded Lies

Polish born Karl Jozef Wojtyla, influential twentieth century leader and second longest serving pope in history, John Paul II once said, “An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded” and now that I am in receipt of a second Financial Ombudsman Service adjudicator assessment which once again excuses action in the face of HBOS wrong doing, I too believe excuses are indeed terrible and in the case of the FOS, tantamount to guarded lies.

Already in my sixth year of battle, I have spent the last twelve months acquiring documentary evidence to support my suspicion that the mortgage I was sold by the Bank of Scotland in June 2006 was granted as a result of false information supplied by a broker whom HBOS paid £4,500 in fees to introduce. I believe our income figures and our property valuation were massaged by both HBOS and the broker to ensure our financial position matched their lending criteria and because the application was submitted on line by the broker, my husband and I were oblivious to the methods which had been employed to secure us a re-mortgage.

Obtaining the full un-redacted files of all the documentary evidence I require from HBOS has proved an arduous task which is still not complete and despite making the FOS aware of HBOS’ obstructive practices in this regard, I have repeatedly been put under enormous pressure to agree to my case proceeding without the incriminating evidence I have been seeking. As a result of an ultimatum I was given by the FOS to produce my findings by 31 January or else forfeit my case, I was forced to submit my lengthy but nevertheless incomplete eight page letter of “further evidence” sighting several examples of underwriting practices which I believe can only be interpreted as fraudulent. In it I listed the numerous ways in which my adjudicator has both misunderstood my case and, in a previous assessment, elected to use false figures supplied by HBOS to draw his conclusions rather than the substantiated information I supplied.

I  also drew his attention to the following;
  • My mortgage application was submitted, on line, without my husband or I being privy to the information used
  • Once the mortgage was approved, my husband and I were asked to sign two separate declaration pages on two separate occasions on forms that were otherwise blank
  • At no time did we meet the broker or anyone connected to the sale of the mortgage as all transactions were carried out via email, post or telephone
  • The brokerage representative who signed and verified photocopies of our passport for identity and money laundering purposes is unknown to us.
  • The broker asked us to send him photocopies of our passports but at no time did he request that he see the originals.
Having received a copy of the original application form (albeit missing the declaration pages) in January 2013 as a result of a miss selling complaint I made to HBOS, I  learned the following;
  • The earned income figures submitted by the broker were grossly over-estimated and unsurprisingly amount to precisely what was required to comply with HBOS’s two and a half time income multiple underwriting requirement
  • Although my husband was a property developer at the time of application and has never been a sportsman professional or otherwise, HBOS show his occupation to be that of a professional sports person.
  • The income details submitted were not verified with our accountant despite us being told it was an underwriting condition at outset and HBOS themselves tell me there is no fact find to support the sale of my mortgage, no affordability checks on file and no obligatory FSA compliance check list.
In addition I strongly suspect,
  • HBOS’s in house valuer rubber stamped an overly high valuation of our property because they were told we purchased the property in 2004 for £890,000 despite HBOS’s own in house solicitors’ file for its conveyance clearly stating we purchased our house in 2000 for £250,000
  • And, for reasons HBOS are unprepared to share, it appears HBOS removed our broker from their panel during the underwriting process of our mortgage and as a result of this it is highly likely that the execution of our mortgage deed constituted an unauthorized sale. If this proves to be the case, the contract HBOS believe they have with us is void.
Satisfied this evidence of HBOS wrong doing would give the FOS nowhere to hide, I hoped my efforts would finally secure me the long overdue and thorough investigation my case deserves.

This is my FOS adjuducator’s response;

Dear [Life after Debt],

“Thank you for your email and attachment of 28 January 2014. As confirmed in my email of the same date I am responding to your attached letter.
Having reviewed its contents I’m afraid I have very little to add to my position on your complaint, as outlined in my opinion letter of 13 November 2013. While I take into account all of the comments you have made, our service’s role is to concentrate on what we believe are the main and relevant issues in your case. As an impartial organisation we do not take instruction from either party as it is for us to decide what evidence we consider is necessary and relevant to our investigation.”

Furthermore my adjudicator informs me,
  • My broker could not be deemed to have been over incentivised to sell me an unsuitable mortgage as I signed in agreement to him receiving his fee
  • It is not reasonable for me to claim over valuation now when I had no objection to the valuation the surveyor gave at the time and,
  • Because the original application form shows a level of income which is sufficient to support the mortgage applied for, he "considers be fair and in line with good industry practice..."
Needless to say I have, by way of an appeal, asked for my case to be referred to an Ombudsman for a ruling. I can only hope he/she has a more comprehensive understanding of mortgage complaints than my current adjudicator.

Economics graduate, former radio, film and television actor and 40th US president Ronald Reagan once said,” Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for existing” and if this is truly the case then what, I wonder, is our government’s excuse for the existence of a toothless and grossly incompetent Financial Ombudsman Service who actively dismiss the legitimate complaints of the individual while condoning the guarded lies and excuses of a corrupt banking industry?