Democratic US senator and noted civil rights activist Robert F. Kennedy once said, “ First is the danger of futility: the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills-against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s great movements... have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protest Reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World and a 32 year old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal so, with these commendable achievements already in the bag, how hard can it be to bring a few bankers to task?
Deemed “woefully unsound” by MP Andrew Tyrie and the parliamentary commission on banking standards, one might easily assume shirking ones fiduciary duty, turning a blind eye to money laundering, manipulating Libor rates, hard selling inappropriate toxic products and cooking the books to maximise their remunerations might prove sufficient to bring about the sternest of criminal charges. However, for a gang of HBOS untouchables, the consequence of wreaking havoc with the UK economy and leaving widespread hardship in their wake have been nothing if not “alternative” in their nature.
Indentified by the FSA as far back as 2003 as an“accident waiting to happen” and led by just a few high ranking individuals who chose to use ineffectual financial regulation, a gullible government and the most malleable of auditors to promote “growth at any price", the HBOS three road rough shod over all who stood in their way for many a year. Blinded by greed and self importance they chose to ignore reports of fraud and warnings of dangerously high levels of risk and instead bullied, threatened and dismissed those who spoke out. As a result their “colossal failures” have cost 921 million in fallen share values, 20 billion in tax payer bailouts, 35,000 in in-house job losses and the repossession of countless homes and small businesses.
To date the personal cost to those responsible has been nothing more than a smattering of token fines, some nominal sessions of naming and shaming and a sprinkling of bad press.
HBOS chairman Lord Dennis “cuckoo land” Stevenson, who enjoyed more than £815,000 per anum for a role he viewed as part time, was indignant he should be required to step down from his chairmanly duties despite being found to be either “deluded or dishonest” for the part he played in concealing HBOS’s imminent collapse. However, he has continued to enjoy a variety of roles in well remunerated employment within the financial services industry by miraculously side stepping a ban from holding a directorship or working in the city and does not currently face any criminal proceedings.
Former HBOS chief executive James Crosby (2004-2006), who infamously bred a culture of dismissal for those who opposed his risk management views, chose to return his knighthood for services to banking and, after much pressure, volunteered a reduction of 30% to his £572,000 indexed annual pension. However, the millions he reaped in HBOS share options (two thirds of which he sold just before the bank’s collapse) along with his equally sizable bonuses have remain unencumbered. After his HBOS departure, he was not only offered, and accepted, the deputy chairmanship of the FSA but took up a number of lucrative positions on various boards because, despite widespread public outrage, he too faced no ban or criminal charges.
Boardroom brawling HBOS Chief executive Andy Hornby (2006-2009), who may well have found “the die was cast and it was too late for him to make any significant change" to avoid disaster, not only managed to avoid financial forfeiture for concealing (with the help of his KPMG auditors) 47 billion in HBOS losses before their LLoyds takeover but also managed to benefit from a “change of control payment” on his departure. Paid for by the tax payers bailout, he took £251,000 in cash and 2051 shares on top of his salary, his pension contributions, his awards in lieu of pension and his redundancy payments. Since then he has enjoyed the most senior of roles with both Boots and Coral, without a whisper of prosecution over his HBOS conduct.
Gordon Brown confessed, "I should have done more to prevent the banking crisis," and David Cameron assures us he "will make sure the banking crisis will not happen again”. However, while Downing Street continues to allow the bankster conscience to dictate their fates rather than their crimes, it is little wonder I who have battled with the untouchable Halifax Bank of Scotland for almost five years, have been unable to acquire an un-redacted version of each and every piece of information held on my HBOS file in order to progress my Financial Ombudsman Service case of complaint.
US novelist and former financial trader, Philipp Meyer once said, “"Give a small number of people the power to enrich themselves beyond everyone's wildest dreams, a philosophical rationale to explain all the damage they're causing, and they will not stop until they've run the world economy off a cliff" and while our government and their regulators prefer to endorse the calculation of capital as a solution to the banking crisis instead of prosecuting the banksters grossly inappropriate corporate conduct, all we can expect globally, nationally and individually is...
A whole lot more of the same.