UK enforcers under pressure on claims against banks
by Alex Varley-Winter, TTF’s Head of Media Relations & Investigative Reporting
Last February a coalition of lawmakers in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking gave their support to a group of people in the UK alleging that high street banks had forged customer signatures on documents.
The APPG observed at the time that: ‘In the USA, all 50 State Attorney Generals have already investigated the industrial-scale forgery of bank signatures on court documents in cases against customers.
‘The investigation resulted in penalty payments by US banks of $25 billion and the review of 4 million court cases by banks against customers. The US Department of Justice described the penalty payments as “the largest consumer financial protection settlement in United States history”‘.
And: ‘In Australia, the Royal Commission documented evidence of signature forgery at Commonwealth Financial Planning, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Bendigo Bank. The interim report also documented practices at the NAB, whereby individuals would sign as a witness to a client’s signature without having actually seen the client sign.’
‘We hope that with the Bank Signature Forgery Campaign, a similar body of evidence can be produced in the UK.’
Since then, the Campaign has provided the chief of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens, with more than 360 crime reports and 19 files of documents.
Some key allegations brought to the campaign have been neatly summarised in a short film presented by Nicholas Wilson, a former banking whistleblower who is distributing the video online. His film features, among other figures, Steve Middleton a consultant who has worked with banking whistleblowers, alleging some of them were taught to forge signatures during their training: “They were taught it was the right thing to do, that it was in the customers’ interests…” he says.
Another key allegation was previously covered by investigative journalist Ian Fraser in his book Shredded: Inside RBS — the ‘common joke’ at Broadland Business Park that “all the best business was done at the photocopier”. The whistleblower Mark Wright – interviewed by the BBC here – goes on to tell Wilson that he alerted Andrew Bailey, then head of the FCA, to the name of an alleged trainer in signature forgeries.
The renewed focus on this subject is helping to bolster calls for a real inquiry on the impact of alleged financial services misconduct in the UK, perhaps akin to Australia’s Royal Commission. There is an air of Groundhog Day to this coverage, however, because we heard the same united call from campaigners last February. Investigations by law enforcement are by their nature secretive, and they have to be.
Mel Stride urging an update from Enforcement Agencies
Complainants’ frustration not to see enforcement action on bank signature forgery claims – or at the very least a public reckoning brought by politicians – is understandable. This is particularly in light of Andy Verity’s recent BBC report – in September – that no complainants had yet been contacted by the National Crime Agency. What is going on? The House of Commons’ Treasury Committee of MPs, chaired by Mel Stride, has been pushing for an update.
Taking on Goliath: remembering Paul Moore
Robert Dellner gave a very moving tribute to his friend Paul Moore at our event on Fixing Banking last week. “It is with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Paul Moore. Paul, many of you will know, as the HBOS whistleblower. I’m not going to speak much about Paul’s career it’s well-documented both in the press and also in his book Crash Bank Wallop that came out in 2015.”
Key to Moore’s decision to blow the whistle on banking malpractice was a quote he heard on the radio: “You will not defeat Goliath with your mouth shut.”
Dellner recalls that after Paul’s whistleblowing, he “became pretty much shunned by the city, lost many friends and colleagues he thought would stand by him through this period, felt quite depressed through a long period of time. He started fighting the system, so to speak, from his perspective.”
“Well documented is his journey through the House of Commons Treasury Committee, where he made his submission which then led to Crosby resigning and surrendering his knighthood
“But while this felt to Paul as some form of vindication … he continued to work really for transparency and a high level of standards and ethics in the industry. …
“He found these last couple of years to be very happy and free of the thoughts and issues that had previously affected him.”
“Paul will always be remembered as a highly intelligent, very loyal, courageous, forthright, principled and very humourous person by all his friends and those that came across him.
“He has no doubt also had his demons but he fought them openly courageously and bravely … this was also part of his character — he was a strong character. His faith, as well, gave him a strong personality and an insatiable will to do the right thing for all of us and the industry.”
Why you should ask your bank what they're doing on climate
On ‘Accelerating our Journey to a Green Economy – Before it’s Too Late’ expert Rebecca Self spoke at Transparency Task Force’s Symposium last week.
“I spent 20 years working in banking … about 10 years into that, just after the global financial crisis had this moment of realisation of what the heck am I doing, what is this industry doing and it’s not quite what I thought it was.
“From that moment I started to pivot my career working on banking reform and regulations within the bank. … My last role was as CFO of sustainable finance. But at that point a number of people said to me, this is a career limiting move, you’ve moving into a very fluffy topic, you’re going away from the mainstream, this is a big mistake. “
“It is very interesting now to see those same people coming back and asking questions and being very interested in the topic.”
Green transition is about ‘using and consuming less’
“If you look at the Earth, the amount it regenerates each year … and average that by the number of people on the planet, typically in Northern Europe we consume four times the annual regenerative capacity of the Earth” – and in the US, ten times.
“If you have steady state economics, GDP growth going up in a line like this, that simply tells you ‘we’re going to run out of stuff pretty soon”
“Soils is one example that’s been mentioned already; there is research that says we have 70 good harvests left.”
“What I look for from the financial sector are these three things:
1. Have they told me what they need to improve?
2. What have you changed as a result of ESG?
3. Is this [your claim] really backed by science, and how has that claim been verified?
While I was working at the bank I was often told ‘customers aren’t interested in this topic, there’s no demand, people don’t care.’ We can all do something, we can all go talk to our banks, talk to our pension schemes, ask them what they are doing on climate change. It really helps.”
SMEs write to Chancellor Rishi Sunak & BoE Governor Andrew Bailey
Press Timeline of relevant articles:
26 Oct 2020 Why there must be thorough probe of claims made by Bank Signature Forgery Campaign – Greg Wright for the Yorkshire Post
26 Oct 2020 – Critics demand action over ‘flawed’ British Banking Resolution Service by James Hurley for the Times
24 Oct 2020 – Banks look to debt collectors to recover bounce back loans by Nicholas Megaw, Stephen Morris and Daniel Thomas for the FT
23 Oct 2020 – Bank Signature Forgery (film) by Nicholas Wilson for Corruption UK
22 Oct 2020 – UK fraud agency suffers string of senior departures by Kate Beioley for the FT
22 Oct 2020 – HSBC froze £1.5bn of customers’ cash in ‘dormant accounts’ – report by Kalyeena Makortoff & Juliette Garside for the Guardian
22 Oct 2020 – Work harder to find fraud, watchdog tells auditors by James Hurley for the Times
17 Oct 2020 MPs pursue claims bank signatures were faked on court papers by Rupert Jones for the Guardian
16 Oct 2020 We need universal digital ad transparency now by Laura Edelson, Erika Franklin Fowler and Jason Chuang for TechCrunch
15 Oct 2020 – Rising COVID-19 Rates Send NatWest Misselling Trial To Video by Bonnie Eslinger for Law 360
15 Oct 2020 – MPs Push Agencies to Act on Forged Signature Claims by Law360
13 Oct 2020 – Mark Carney says banks should link executive pay to Paris climate goals by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian
12 Oct 2020 ‘It is time to reboot the competition regime for the modern, digital age’ by David Wighton, The Times
12 Oct 2020 Gina Miller blasts FCA complaints scheme changes ‘unfair, immoral and illegal’ by Cristian Angeloni for Portfolio Adviser
12 Oct 2020 MPs call for input on Pension Schemes Bill by James Phillips for Professional Pensions
10 Oct 2020 Give pension trustees power to fight scammers, say MPs by Kenza Bryan for the Times
08 Oct 2020 Freedom to transfer pensions should be stripped where scams are suspected, industry experts urge by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph
08 Oct 2020 Planned pensions shake-up passes first Commons hurdle by Law 360
08 Oct 2020 WPC chairman says transfer rules ‘must be changed’ by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
07 Oct 2020 Tech giants share blame for pension scams, MPs told by Law 360
06 Oct 2020 FCA opens 85 cases over pension scam concerns by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
03 Oct 2020 Record number of savers fall victim to investment fraud as scam adverts stay on Google by Andrew Ellson for The Times
02 Oct 2020 – A New Theory of Soil by Alex Varley-Winter for SustainAct
11 Sep 2020 – The Hut Group facing fresh questions over governance after it reveals one of country’s best-known private equity barons to oversee pay policy by Lucy White for the Daily Mail
10 Sep 2020 London Capital and Finance investors relieved after court ruling opens route to compensation claims by Ben Chapman for the Independent
08 Sep 2020 – Change in law needed to stop scams, says Timms, by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
05 Sep 2020 Crime Agency under fire over bank signature forgery by Andy Verity for BBC
24 Aug 2020 – Financial Conduct Authority rushes to minimise compensation for its failings by James Hurley for The Times
04 Aug 2020 – Have your say: Will the WPC’s inquiry into the impact of pension freedoms be too overshadowed by Covid-19 impacts? by Professional Pensions
03 Aug 2020 – ‘“I’m 39, have lost my job and am in debt – can I unlock my £18k pension?” … DON’T do it!’‘ by Steve Webb for This is Money
01 Aug 2020 – ‘I lost £2.3m after I was conned into transferring my pension’ by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph
31 Jul 2020 ‘Common sense’ prevails as pension freedom withdrawals fall 17% — But drop is expected to be ‘a short-term blip’ by Robbie Lawther for International Adviser
31 Jul 2020 – HMRC figures show plunging pension freedom withdrawals by Hope William-Smith for Professional Adviser
28 Jul 2020 – MPs launch inquiry into pension scams by Tom Kelly for Daily Mail ; UK Pension Scams Under Scrutiny After 2015 Relaxation in Rules by Reuters & MPs launch wide-ranging pension scams probe by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing
24 Jul 2020 – US business groups seek steps to stamp out online fraud by Leonie Barrie for Just Style
17 Jul 2020 – Year ‘dominated’ by FCA shortcomings as 205 complaints made, by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
29 Jun 2020 – MPs Pushed to Launch Pension Scam Inquiry by Amy Austin for FT Adviser & Lawmakers Urged To Open Inquiry Into Pension Scams by Martin Croucher for Law 360
14 May 2020 – Under Rising Pressure on Climate, JP Morgan Rejects Shareholders’ Calls to Disclose Carbon Footprint by Alex Varley-WInter for DeSmog
11 May 2020 – FCA urged to build public trust in independent reviews by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
15 Apr 2020 – Met police lose two thirds of finance officers as fraud soars by Ben Ellery for the Times
25 Mar 2020 – Care Home Wants NatWest Docs in Misselling Fight by Law360
20 Mar 2020 – Connaught review delayed as Covid-19 concerns loom by Rachel Mortimer in FT Adviser
07 Jan 2020 – It’s time to keep your pensions promise, Boris! The PM pledged to help these victims of a huge scam FOUR years ago – and they’re still waiting by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail.
29 Dec 2019 – ‘Lambs to the slaughter – tens of thousands of savers have lost up to £10billion in rogue pensions schemes sanctioned by the government… and now the taxman is threatening VICTIMS with fines’, by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail
15 Aug 2019 – Victims hit by Connaught’s collapse blast City watchdog for ‘whitewashing’ independent review by Lucy White for Daily Mail
05 Jul 2019 Government-owned bank ‘forging signatures’ in repossession cases by Andy Verity for BBC
18 Jun 2019 – “I came home to find my house had been stolen!” by Angela Ellis-Jones for the Daily Mail
20 Jun 2019 – FCA orders review of its handling of Connaught collapse by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
29 Mar 2019 – MPs call for inquiry into alleged forgery of signatures by Andy Verity for BBC
15 Feb 2017 – RBS accused of fraud & forgery by customers and ex-employee by Andrew Hosken for The World Tonight BBC Radio 4