8th February 2017
SME Alliance, APPG, HBOS Reading.
In the last few days many people have contacted SME Alliance in relation to HBOS Reading, the successful criminal trials and most recently, the apology from Lloyds Banking Group. It has been a very hectic time for Paul and I because finally, we have had the opportunity to start getting the story of what the victims of HBOS Reading have been forced to go through, into the public domain. But please be sure that in the next week we will get in contact with everyone who has called or e-mailed us and especially those victims of this crime who we haven't previously spoken to.
While trust in our banking system remains understandably low amongst our members, I believe the statement from Lloyds Banking Group is a positive development. We have been writing to Lord Blackwell since last October and, having heard his views on corruption in a speech he made last May, we have been hopeful he would be the person to finally act with some integrity. I know some of our members have been disappointed with replies from the management of Lloyds Banking Group - so have I and for many years! However, SME Alliance has been pushing for better communication between Banks and SMEs and an alternative to costly litigation, for over two years. So it is important both we and the CEO and Chairman of Lloyds, take this opportunity to put aside cynicism and move forward.
I do know George Kerevan MP and others at the APPG for Fair Business Banking are working very hard in the background to facilitate a resolution for the victims of HBOS Reading. They are in contact with Mr Horta-Osorio and in contact with SME Alliance. It is vitally important to the victims of HBOS Reading who have suffered so much and for so long and to the Bank's shareholders who have unknowingly (until now) lost hundreds of millions of pounds because of criminal conduct, flawed systems and poor management, that we support every initiative to turn this situation around swiftly and positively. George and his team are critical to this process which will, in turn, bring about serious change for all SME/bank relations. We are very grateful for his help and support.
I believe some of the victims of HBOS Reading are in the process of taking legal actions against Lloyds Banking Group and given what has come out in the criminal trials we believe they will of course be successful. Personally, having been through 22 court cases with HBOS/Lloyds and having sat through months of the criminal trials, I am not keen to go through more court cases. Neither would I be supporting the goals of SME Alliance to take that route. HBOS Reading and the enormous support we have had from the media and the APPG has given us the perfect opportunity to pilot the alternative mediation we have been trying to get. Therefore Paul and I have no intention presently of taking any action via the courts.
For those who feel we are letting the bank off the hook here, that is definitely not the case. We will continue to share the HBOS Reading story (the criminal trials were the tip of the iceberg) with the media so it has maximum public scrutiny. However, our priority at the moment is to bring about a swift resolution for victims and, as we have always said, lack of communication between SMEs and the banks has enabled a catastrophic stalemate for us all. Therefore if, with the help of the APPG, we can open a serious dialogue with Lord Blackwell and Antonio Horta-Osorio, that can only be a good thing. Not least because we can clarify immediately why we do not see the intervention of the FCA or third parties chosen exclusively by the bank and the regulator as a transparent route to a meaningful resolution.
We will keep members informed of any progress.
For further information please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear members of SME Alliance and all SME owners whose lives, like mine, have been blighted by abuse from banks, I just wanted to post this short blog to thank everyone so much for the support Paul and I have had over the last few months. As many will know, last Monday (30th January 2017) the jury in the long running HBOS Reading trial at Southwark Crown Court, found five of the six defendants guilty of various charges including corruption, fraudulent trading and money laundering. Additionally, after the verdict, the jury were finally told that Lynden Scourfield, the HBOS senior banker who was pivotal to this case, had pleaded guilty to all the charges against him (I think it was all charges but don't have details) on 12th August 2016 – the Glorious 12th!
This news has remained sub judice throughout the trials so it would not affect the judgement of the other defendants and I'm sure the jury must have been very confused as to why the main man in the fraud was not on trial. I'm also sure this has been quite a harrowing five months for the jury who have had to sit through hours and hours of evidence which was occasionally explosive but mostly dry financial facts. They really did pull the short straw getting this trial for jury duty and we've very grateful to them!
Anyway the trial is over and I can honestly say the most sickening thing about it for me and the other victims who attended was listening to senior HBOS bankers who were witnesses for the prosecution, explaining how they had rumbled Lynden and his pals back in 2006. By July 2006 an internal review had been commissioned and this review (the first of many) was finished by the end of February 2007.
It was handed to to Mr Scourfield on 8th March 2007 at which point he left the bank and never returned. He was later suspended for “gross misconduct” which is a very different story to the one Paul and I and the other victims have been told for the last 10 years. In short – and I will go into much greater detail asap – HBOS bankers right up to the most senior levels and Lloyds Banking Group bankers have: continually lied to us and other victims since March 2007; lied to MPs representing constituents; lied to Cambridge Police (in 2007/8) and Thames Valley Police (2008); destroyed scores of viable businesses; totally ruined many lives (in 5 cases irreversibly ruined) and; in an attempt to stop the investigation Paul and I started in mid 2007, tried to evict us 22 times.
I don't doubt the majority of people working in banks are good, honest, decent people. But clearly many, and it would appear it's those in senior positions, are not because in our ten year investigation Paul and I not spoken to one HBOS of Lloyds Banking Group senior banker who was prepared to tell the truth.
Despite that fact, I am happy to say we have finally reached the end of the trial with no mishaps and we have had a very good result because, for once, JUSTIC HAS BEEN DONE!! It's taken 10 years of our lives to achieve this and I wouldn't wish the misery we've been through on anyone - although I know many of our members have been through it and our families have also been through it. But this is a victory for all of us in SME Alliance – we've broken the chain and commercial bankers and shady rip off merchants masquerading as 'professional' turnaround experts, are not just going to jail, they're in jail.
Obviously this is also a huge success for Thames Valley Police who have worked tirelessly on this case for six years. Why the Serious Fraud Office has refused so many times to investigate this major fraud and even when Vince Cable asked them to, I don't know. But I'm rather glad they left it to TVP who are possibly one of the only police forces in the Country capable of such a huge investigation – they've done a great job, we're very grateful and I hope this will encourage other police forces to take allegations against fraudulent bankers more seriously because as many of us know, fraud is endemic in some banks.
The sentencing for the defendants in the trial will happen tomorrow and I know many HBOS Reading victims and SME Alliance people will be at the Court. These people (the defendants) deserve to go to jail and it's right they do because their victims have all lived through the equivalent of a long prison sentence as they simply couldn't get on with their lives. But neither Paul nor I are celebrating about big jail sentences, we're just celebrating the fact justice has been done and our long fight has been worth it.
Now we move on to the next battle – what will the Bank do?
There is absolutely no justification for their conduct. No justification for deliberately ruining people's lives. No justification for allowing the HBOS or the Black Horse Brands to be dragged through the mud. No justification for losing a billion pounds of shareholders money and then hiding the facts while they demanded more money from share holders via Rights Issue. Logic and decency appears to have been absent with regard to the HBOS Reading fraud. As far as the Banks were concerned it appears to have been all about covering up the fraud – and they've worked very had on their 'Watergate' sized cover up. But as I have said to several newspapers – 3rd time lucky. There is no way this scandal wasn't known about at the highest levels of the banks and both Lord Stevenson, as Chairman of HBOS and Sir Win Bischoff as Chairman of Lloyds Banking Group have both acted without integrity and made a bad situation much much worse for the victims. I sincerely hope Lord Blackwell, the present Chairman of Lloyds Banking Group will want to do the right thing by the victims and will want to see them fully compensated immediately.
It would be the ultimate travesty if Lloyds Banking Group now relied on their ability to pay expensive lawyers to fight complicated legal actions. We should not have to go to court at all. I and all the other victims want our lives back and we want to give our children a future given the Banks have destroyed so many years of their lives. As Paul said on the File On Four programme last night “don't keep telling us black is white - you've been caught – admit it and deal with it!” I'm hoping Lord Blackwell will do exactly that.
Sophie and Laura have been working hard (as always) this time to round up all the press coverage on this and we've posted some links below. If anyone didn't hear Andy Verity's explosive 'File on Four' expose on radio Four last night, please do listen as it was excellent: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006th08
I know there's been a huge amount of press in the last few days but for anyone wanting to understand the level of cover up and deception in this, please do read Ian Fraser's excellent blog originally published in September 2009 http://www.ianfraser.org/re-examining-hbos/ . In fact if you go to Ian's site and key HBOS into the search bar there are loads and loads of blogs and articles as he has been reporting on this for years but I guess the bank hasn't been reading about HBOS Reading! And one of the great things about the trials being over is I can now repost all my blogs about HBOS Reading – we've been gagged for 6 years but not any more!!
Finally I want to say I hope all our members will realise what a huge success this is for SME Alliance. The support and energy Paul and I have had from the members has really kept us going through the last couple of years of our battle and this is definitely a victory for all of us. I know the press say this is our story but we could never have got here on our own. Our friends, our fantastic family, the other HBOS Reading victims, Thames Valley Police, our friends in the press, our many supporters, our trusty common sense lawyer and the members of HBOS Reading have all made this possible. Many thanks to you all.
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4178154/How-nailed-crooked-HBOS-bank-boss-cost-11m.html
The Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2744673/porn-star-performed-at-sex-parties-for-disgraced-hbos-worker-and-his-pals-while-firms-they-fleeced-were-going-bust/
Cambridge Evening news: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/business/business-news/cambridge-couple-vindicated-massive-fraud-12529459
Get Reading: http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/former-reading-hbos-banker-bankrupts-12530850