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.
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