Mr McEwan I would like you to consider one simple question;
Do you understand the Principle of TCF – Treating Customers Fairly? If so why does your Bank’s behaviour remain inherently dishonest and why is its bad behaviour getting worse under your control?
I will explain why I ask and give you an example of such behaviour;
One of your customers, we will call him Mr. X, was 10 years ago mis-sold an Interest Rate SWAP when the Bank salesmen dishonestly told him that the Bank expected interest rates to increase. The reality is your Bank and every Bank out there knew with certainty at that time that rates would decrease.
When the SWAP was sold 2 banks in your Group acting in tandem NatWest and RBS, set up a credit facility of £300k without his knowledge, to cover the expected losses on the SWAP and secured that against his properties again without his knowledge. They also sold him a commercial loan on his new home instead of a mortgage in their greed for a larger SWAP sale.
Three years later when rates decreased they confirmed to him that following interest rate reductions, the SWAP credit facility he had not signed for and knew nothing about, had now reached £500k and his manager then told him he was now in breach of his Loan to on his facilities and he would have to go into GRG!
In the subsequent years in full knowledge that he had been mis-sold both the SWAP and the mortgage, GRG then attempted to extort fees for fabricated consulting work and tried to asset strip him with a PPFA for such ‘continued support’.
This was before you were in charge.
Since you have been in charge the Bank has admitted both mis-selling the SWAP and the mortgage however, they would only offer him compensation if he accepted a proportion of his money under a rigged ‘full and final settlement’ in the SWAP Review?
Unwilling to sign up to an unlawfully imposed settlement, he had no choice but to sue the Bank and before doing so, several subject access requests were undertaken to analyse the banks credit files and applications. Your central credit files from the RMP system showed that the bank manager 10 years ago acted incompetently and a claim was initiated.
In discovery however, those alleged same credit files when received contained almost 5 extra pages setting out never before seen facts, that evidenced the bank manager had it would seem, undertaken substantial due diligence before offering the loan, the new version of the credit application contained an additional 1,877 words not seen in the original credit file.
So, we have 2 options, either;
1. The bank 2 years ago withheld crucial information Mr X was entitled to, in an information request to unfairly and unlawfully gain an advantage, or;
2. The Bank is rewriting its central credit files, doctoring the RMPS files now, to cheat him out of justice!
Either way this Bank is spending substantial amounts of money on its lawyers defending previous dishonesty and crooked behaviour.
Some would say that the Bank behaves in this manner because it can, because it has deep pockets however, I would say that this Bank does not have deep pockets; in fact it has no pockets at all and it is using tax payers’ money, our money, to ruin customers it has already mistreat over many years.
This is happening on your watch.
You may attempt to deny knowledge of such behaviour however, put plainly as many of us know having dealt with Batt, Hughes, McDonald etc. there is no area in this Bank that one is less likely to get a straight answer, than from than your own executive response team, why is that!
This bank will never repay the tax payers or return monies to its shareholders, whilst this culture of dishonesty prevails.
I will give you one such example of your executive team’s behaviour;
A man is in danger of losing his home in Cheshire, I will call him Mr. Y. Following a Court Case at which your bank again introduced bogus central files to win the case, Mr. Y went to his MP for help, and he gave them documents supporting his allegations. The MP’s office then without Mr. Y’s authority or knowledge gave those documents straight to your Ms. Macdonald and, this was the subsequent e-mail interchange;
Yes – and I thought it was all over! I have just had a rather long phone call from him asking me to forward everything to the bank. I told him that Mr Osborne cannot be involved any further and he has to contact you himself. I did not tell him that I have forwarded the emails to you.
The phone will be on answerphone for the rest of the day!
Ms Macdonald replied;
And we had such a quiet period there!
Hope all is well and I agree, please don’t respond and the team here will investigate. If we need to arrange a response, we will certainly copy or blind copy you in.
Jane the responded;
For your information, today I have received these 2 emails (below and attached) from Mr Y. I will not be replying to him.
Just who do these people think they are, that is your personal Business manager instructing the then Chancellor George Osborne’s office, to ignore his constituent and do as the Bank instructs, in control of an MP complaint.
This is appalling behaviour.
I am here today with an ex member of RBS staff Mark Wright, Mark whistle blew in your bank and paid the price losing his career and health for doing so. He is however, now prepared along with his colleagues to tell the truth about what is happening in your Bank, right under your nose.
In the first instance, Mark and his colleagues have a key piece of advice for yourself and Sir Howard, if you are prepared to put your signature on letters to MP’s please ensure you actually know the facts held on your central system, before approving misleading statements.
Mark unfortunately found that he could trust neither your Bank nor the regulator when reporting RBS Misbehaviour and therefore he is setting up a forum for whistle-blowers from all banks called Bank Confidential. He will be in touch shortly, with this Bank’s Board, along with all other major Banks, to ask for support and sponsorship to help provide a safe environment in which staff can speak out, and I hope the Board will be supportive of this forum.
However, the facts remain Mr. McEwan, that either you know about the misbehaviours of your Bank or you don’t, in which case you are possibly the only person in the UK not privy to one of the financial arenas worst kept secrets.
So, I will ask my question again;
Why is this Banks behaviour getting worse under your control?
Will you offer financial support to the new Whistleblower forum BankConfidential?
Mr Chairman, I am here today wearing two hats; Firstly, as a shareholder I am head of SME Alliance in Scotland and am representing them. I would just reassure you that contrary to any perception there may be, this is not a bank bashing organisation as our chairman was at pains to point out at the FT Conference on Banking Standards two weeks ago. Ross McEwan, I believe that you shared the platform as a speaker.
At that event our chairman said he was there because he felt that bank customers who had lost out through poor governance, lack of regulation and lack of being “treated fairly” in the banking system, needed to be heard.
SME Alliance is not necessarily a single issue organisation, but inevitably most of the current membership was drawn to it because they all felt there was no other way of expressing their helplessness at being contemptuously dismissed by their banks. The members are drawn from customers of all the banks, however, mindful of the very recently published report concerning the number of complaints made about banks in general, RBS having by far the highest number of complaints, it is therefore inevitable that our membership is representative of that figure, with a high proportion being RBS customers.
SME Alliance would prefer if the membership could bring their complaints to you and receive a conciliatory response, however you persist in making this virtually impossible with your adversarial and confrontational attitude, which I must say was not helped one little bit by a recent newspaper article attributed to one of your most senior directors, labelling some small business owners as “CHANCERS WHO HAD PUT THEIR LIVES INTO FAILED BUSINESSES AND WERE NOW LOOKING FOR A BAILOUT” This was followed by the further comment “LET THEM SUE. WE’LL SEE THEM IN COURT”
Irrespective of who that senior director is, it is you, Ross McEwan, as Chief Executive who bears responsibility for what emanates from your bank, therefore I address you directly.
You make public announcements claiming engagement with your customers and earning their trust. I ask you this; do you earn trust by insulting customers who have genuine grievances that you refuse to address? Do you not realise that this is about real people and real lives, not just about numbers and units?
It is little wonder that you are repeatedly forced to respond that allegations have caused, and continue to cause, huge reputational damage to the bank, when there is such arrogant and contemptuous dismissal of customers’ legitimate and genuine complaints. Is it any wonder that there are so many very vocal customers and ex-customers of this bank, victims of financial vandalism, who are now incensed at being branded as CHANCERS SEEKING A PAYDAY? It’s little wonder that one of the financial advisers to SME Alliance perceptively noted; - banking is where integrity is just the name of a racehorse.
The Tomlinson exposures, and, last October the revelations from BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed of the Dash for Cash, followed by the disclosure of the victory emails sent by the GRG division when yet another hapless victim was financially massacred, just serve as a direct counter to your repeated assertions. Frankly Ross, I question your grasp of honesty, integrity, trust and ethics, when dismissing these allegations. You publicly acknowledge legacy issues but clearly make no attempt at addressing illegality within the bank.
Capitulating last week in the Hockins’ case, agreeing a settlement to their long running dispute surely served as an example of how confrontation could have been avoided, had you chosen to address them constructively with the conciliatory approach.
Ross, there is a deluge of complaints from some very vocal victims which you simply and contemptuously dismiss by denying their legitimacy. The Hockins are just but one example and through SME Alliance I can tell you that for all Hockins, for all the Clive May’s, for all the Andy Keats, for all the Mike Wilson’s, and for all the Andy Quoi’s, to name but a very few, there are many more victims like me standing behind with exactly the same stories of illegal conduct. It is wholly inconceivable that we are all wrong when we have any amount of evidence examined by legal and financial experts verifying the claims as being legitimate and in most instances clearly identifying that fraud is the common theme running through each and every case.
Can I direct you to look very closely at the recent example set by another Chief Executive of a public company, Thomas Cook? Peter Frankhauser, whose shining example of corporate governance and leadership, demonstrates to the public a very encouraging and enlightened attitude from a company boss who finally saw the light and took personal responsibility for so many failings within Thomas Cook.
Of specific note is his admission that the company spent ten years talking about their customer and not talking with their customer. He ditched his advisers and spoke directly with the customer thereby achieving a solution that could have been reached so much sooner had common sense and understanding prevailed.
I really wish to take issue with you Ross when you regularly appear before the media saying that all allegations of criminality have been investigated with no evidence being found, and earnestly asking customers to trust the Bank as it has set aside the past, and dealt with legacy issues.
Well Ross, I think you have been imbibing in far too much of Scotland’s best known export, believing your own sound bites and ignoring a welter of evidence provided by a multitude of exposures that appear with regularity in all the media. Should you take time to consider your false statements and the effect they may have on the general public, I think even the simplest of minds would understand that internal self examination and reporting will never reveal the truth.
Please Ross, cease with the insults, drop the crooks, the connivers, and the cover up brigade within the bank; stop being cloth eared and be like Peter Frankhauser, take on board what he plainly and honestly stated, and realise you cannot win when confronted by thousands of complaints which are similar in nature and revolve around one division within the bank.
Actions speak louder than words and perhaps, just perhaps, with deed instead of words, our membership and the wider number of aggrieved customers will start to believe you, and give you a chance of retrieving the trust you have destroyed and of repairing the huge gulf separating you from millions of customers, because very evidently you and the bank, are widely perceived as a disgrace.
Many at SME Alliance have been forced to pursue the bank through the courts and I know that you are well aware of an impending action against you with multiple claimants of which I am one. It would seem quite clear to those advising that there is clear and irrefutable evidence to bring these claims successfully and therefore my comments above may, I hope, give you cause for reflection, particularly when you consider the Hockins case and your capitulation when faced with evidence for instance of your staff telling them that they had not suffered enough.
Wearing my second hat, I am here as an ex customer. Ross, two weeks ago you are quoted as saying at the FT Conference on Banking Standards: - Call me old fashioned but I want customers to pay us back.
I was so bemused reading this that I had to read it again and check with my fellow SME Alliance colleagues who were present at the Conference for confirmation that those were your words. For avoidance of doubt and for the benefit of the audience, are those your words? Thank you, Ross and on that basis I am going to publicly challenge you on that statement.
Do you know why? Well let me tell you:-
In July 1997 I borrowed £800K to expand our business. 16 months later, in November 1998, I deposited more than £800K with the bank and sought to repay the debt but RBS stopped me from doing so. I was an old fashioned borrower who wanted to minimise debt as much as possible as quickly as possible, but instead of accepting my cash at that time, the bank moved our accounts under the control of your Jackboot division latterly known as GRG and drove us into bankruptcy with all the attendant misery and personal anguish which has ensued.
For years I could never understand why and it is thanks to the dedication and expertise of financial, legal and banking investigators and advisers that I now know the answer as to why RBS effectively stole our money; stole our hotel business; stole our house and every other asset we owned and drove us to bankruptcy.
My impression of old fashioned bankers is of people in whom you could have complete trust, who had ethics, integrity and honesty. So Ross before you trot out the usual response from the bank, I do accept that we have been through the court process and made a complaint to the Ombudsman. However, the issues I am asking you to personally examine and which have now been shown to demonstrate illegality by RBS were never ventilated in court. I ask you please Ross; set aside your prejudice and as an old fashioned banker look at this with a fresh pair of eyes and a clear mind. I am offering an olive branch for the final time here, and ask you to note down the following points.
So here is my public challenge to you Ross:-
1) Personally investigate the dealings I had with RBS starting from May 1997 when I was introduced to the bank and spent hours discussing and negotiating the proposal of moving our business accounts to RBS
2) I was old fashioned enough in wanting to repay the loans I was asking for, as quickly as possible and if you read the file notes of that time you ought to see that I explicitly requested the structure of the loans to allow for full repayment as soon as possible within the term time suggested by the Relationship Manager I negotiated with. The notes also ought to say that I was assured that early redemption would cost me three months interest penalty as it was projected they would be residential mortgage type loans.
3) You ought to read that I agreed to move our accounts to RBS on this specific assurance and became a customer of RBS in July 1997.
4) Move on 16 months to November 1998 when I deposited money with the bank.
5) Specifically ask to see file notes of the meeting held in Dundee with the Relationship Manager when the issue of full loan repayment was discussed. You ought to read that I asked for the figure outstanding on the loans so that I could authorise full repayment from cash which was held on deposit and which on 6th November 1998 was more than sufficient to expunge the loans in their entirety. Also note that there was a witness to that meeting who will corroborate the fact that the main item for discussion was full repayment.
Having investigated my files Ross perhaps you can then tell me why the bank, having extended loans totalling £800K in July 1997, refused to accept full repayment from me in November 1998 from the amount on deposit that was in excess of the outstanding £760K or thereby at that time?
So, come on Ross, be a man, be the old fashioned banker you purport to be, ditch the screen of lawyers and other advisers you hide behind, and just this once, engage with me, the customer, by accepting my challenge to you of personally investigating my complaint and acknowledge the evidence identified by others of illegality. As a banker, meet with me face to face, look me in the eye, and tell me why the bank stopped me repaying the loans in November 1998.
Maybe you will choose to ignore my request and dismiss the olive branch I have extended; either way it will make no difference to me as I can and will continue with the legal claim mentioned before.
It’s over to you Ross.
Nigel K Henderson
In connection with a talk on Banking Standards arranged by the Financial Times and given by Nick Gould, Chairman of SME Alliance (www.smealliance.org), he asked members to provide information of their own “real life“ experiences in dealing with certain banks. Here are the questions and answers. They will make extremely uncomfortable reading for the banks and bankers concerned
1. If you had a similar claim against a bank today, do you think you would be treated any differently, YES or NO—why have you replied as you have? Please keep it short
2. Would you say you have noticed any improvement in your treatment by the bank over the last few years, or is it the same , better or worse—please provide one or two short examples to back up your answer.
3. Would you say the people you have been dealing with have treated you with high ethical, professional and business standards —YES or NO—please provide one or two short example to back up your answer.
4. If you could wave a magic wand and improve one thing in the overall conduct of your bank in its dealings with you, what would that one thing be?
Quote re scheme
what Lloyds says in public and what it does in private already seems to be two very different things.
Moreover, the Bank’s decision to appoint Professor Russel Griggs as its ITP before completing its meetings with victims and without consulting with any of them or the APPG beforehand clearly does not bode well in this respect.
In particular, it would seem to us, based on his background as the current overseer of credit application appeals, that Lloyds has selected Professor Griggs to perform the role of the traditional, secondary, reviewer, who will review decisions that Lloyds has already made in individual cases, rather than that of a primary, truly independent, decision maker.
We also have concerns over Professor Griggs’ previous reluctance to criticise RBS before the Treasury Select Committee and his simplistic, unsympathetic, view that businesses within RBS’ GRG would have been unlikely to survive anyway given their financial difficulties, which completely ignored the fact that many businesses that fell into the clutches of the GRG did so for wholly spurious and baseless reasons.
Clearly, there is a risk Professor Griggs may already be predisposed towards the Bank’s likely position on issues of causation and “case-hardened” towards the victims of HBOS’ Impaired Assets division.
Nick Gould (Chairman of SME Alliance) talk at the FT Conference on Banking Standards- 27th April, 2017.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
I feel rather like Daniel in the lion's den standing here. My name is Nick Gould. I am corporate law partner at Gunnercooke. I am also Chairman and co-founder of SME Alliance and it is in that role I am speaking here today. SME Alliance is a sole purpose lobby group made up mostly of Small and Medium sized businesses who have in some way been damaged by certain action of certain people at certain banks. As well as trying to help members we act as a knowledge sharing group. I am here because bank customers who have lost out through poor governance, lack of regulation and lack of being "treated fairly" in the banking system need to be heard.
I have decided to divide this brief talk into three parts.
First, some examples from SME Alliance members of the effects of poor governance and rules which are too complex, unenforceable and unenforced.
Next, perhaps arrogantly, to give our insight into how some banks got themselves their current awful reputation.
Finally, I'd like to end on a positive note; what might be done to improve banks' culture - and why that would benefit all of us.
I should note that my comments are addressed mainly to two major UK banks and various regulators. The other financial institutions are not directly within these discussions-but you should be interested.
SME Alliance is, I think, wrongly perceived as a bank bashing organisation - we aren't, but look at it from where the owners of the SMEs we represent, sit. They feel beaten up, destroyed, not listened to and not heard, so they fight back. No one wants a war, but that's what it feels like and that is what we would like to try and get away from.
When I knew I was coming here I asked some SME Alliance members a couple of relevant questions. I will post the replies on an anonymised basis on our website www.smealliance.org but here are some of them. Although truth can hurt, I suggest we need to have a real dialogue and this could be part of it.
Ql. If you had a claim against a bank today would you be treated any differently?
Everyone said no-examples;
"No, I don't think I would be treated any differently. I think that my bank and its lawyers are arrogant and .believe they are invincible and they know that I have no money and can take no action against them."
"No because banks and bankers now think it's part of the game to extract every penny they can with no moral compass or a thought for right or wrong."
"No because bank culture has not changed."
"No difference now because the fundamental relationship between Banker and Customer and the insolvency industry has not changed one jot. Banks take security and it gives them total power -this is the problem."
Q2. Has there been any improvement in your treatment by your bank over last few years?
"Personally, worse; no interaction with the bank is possible. Imagine the school bully holding you at arm's length while he eats your sweets; but without the faint hope of a teacher coming to the rescue."
"I have seen no improvements since the recession. The Bankers maintain their arrogant standing! As they could not run a business how are they able to dictate to Small Businesses what they should or should not be doing!"
"Worse. There is no fairness being demonstrated in any dealings."
Q3. Would you say the people you have been dealing with have treated you with high ethical, professional and business standards; please provide examples.
"Recently one person has been really good professional polite and courteous although his hands are tied he cannot even sneeze in front of you without the approval of the legal team. In the early days it was all about intimidation and power to batter you down into submission you are made to feel alone and a failure."
"No definitely not! At Mediation they were intimidating to say the least. The bankers continue to lie through their Solicitors they have no morals or standards. They most of the time are trying to cover their backs for bad behaviour from the past."
Q4. If you could wave a magic wand and improve one thing in the overall conduct of your bank in its dealings with you, what would that one thing be?
"Truth honesty and decency along with large helping of self-reflection."
"Honesty, transparency and genuine file disclosures. The banks need to stop fabricating central files and file documents to cover up their misbehaviour and dishonesty, there will be a substantial cost to this but 'the rules are the rules'!"
And finally this is from Nigel Henderson. You might want to watch his talk at last year's Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime, which you can find on YouTube.
"The mainstay of any business relationship is trust in the ethics, commercial morality and basic honesty of the people you are dealing with. Banks have shown themselves to be devoid of all of the above, putting personal and commercial avarice ahead of any other consideration towards their customers. Recent court cases have demonstrated that those at the very top of the banks persist in ignoring the conduct of the bank and covering up such wrongdoing."
So how did your industry get into this position? A couple of thoughts and several questions. It seems to most outsiders you are in a bunker mentality, you have your
Spades and you just keep on digging. For example, the have you ever thought how ridiculous it is that you need a regulation called "Treating Customers Fairly"? Why not just do it as a matter of course? Why find wriggle room to get out of such a basic idea? Where are the regulators needed to ensure rules are really enforceable and enforced? Would other regulators allow bullying of whistle-blowers, doctoring of transcripts between bank and customer, or a vendetta against certain customers? Does the Banking Standards Board ever talk to those affected by lax and lack of enforced standards? Why would a bank spend (say) double the amount on professional fees that it need spends to settle a claim? Why is there apparently such a fear factor within these banks? When a major bank sees itself as a co-victim, rather than a co conspirator, something isn't quite right.
And please take this next comment away with you.
Ethics, morals and relationships-they are, but shouldn't be, merely words to many. And because they are seen as merely words and because of actions or inaction, arrogance or inability to hear the real effects of those words, we know people who have committed suicide, have died, are dying of cancer, have had nervous breakdowns. These are real people with real lives-not numbers or units.
And you know what-- it is actually in your and everyone else's interest for you to behave morally and ethically, to build real relationships and to be effectively regulated. I never thought I would make this sort of comment and I assume no one wants to be spoken to like this. I also know very well, generalisations are odious. 99% plus of those working in banks are good and fair people.
So, where next?
This is from Nikki Turner, co-founder of SME Alliance, one of the few people I am in awe of and the person who with her husband Paul has spent over 13 years - THIRTEEN YEARS! - fighting for honesty, transparency and justice. You might know about the Turners, they discovered and took years to convince a world that wouldn’t listen that there was a fraud in HBOS Reading. And finally, the world (or some of it) did listen.
"Reality check - Most of all (and here's the 'world peace' line) I would like to see senior management having some real consideration for the society we all live in. Some senior bankers may believe the importance of the financial sector means they are indeed ‘masters of the universe' but that is ultimately a delusional view. I know many bankers who are good decent people but sadly, over the last ten years, the term banker has become synonymous with the most disparaging of descriptions previously reserved for unsavoury characters. It is a fact the only people not badly affected by the so called 'credit crunch' are the senior bankers who oversaw the disaster. Society has not forgotten this fact and it has tainted the entire sector. Given that nothing has changed for the better, society is becoming more and more frustrated by what can only be perceived as a culture of greed, arrogance and disdain for the very people who bailed banks out and allowed senior management to continue to receive telephone number sized bonuses. It is not a healthy or sustainable situation and the only people who can change this perception or this dark culture are senior bankers."
We need you to stop digging and to start acknowledging the real wrongs; start talking to us and others like us. Stop being just legalistic-be something more. Be human, be moral and recognise what happened to those on the other side of the table. If I worked in an industry and read some of these comments, I would be ashamed. Why not be part of a change for something positive. Paul Turner who knows more about these defects in banks than most, suggested something such as a truth and reconciliation commission, why not? I repeat, please come and talk to us with a genuinely open mind.