All's 'Yell' that ends 'Yell', or b)... Is this Ground Zero for the Oversight Hierarchy Stonewall?
Many of us will never have heard of HIBU. However, it is fair to say that everyone [over a certain age] knows of what was their key brand; 'Yellow Pages'.
For those under that 'certain age', the 'Yellow Pages' was the manual version of a 'Search Engine'. The Google of our generation if you will. Their slogan 'Let your fingers do the walking.....' alluding to the process of thumbing through the voluminous book to find anything and everything in terms of business, trades people, shops etc.
It is safe to say that the rise of the internet impacted this brand hard. However, it's also safe to say that what I've learned in recent weeks would have J. R. Hartley turning in his grave.
I, and countless other experts, as well as the owners & shareholders of the thousands of UK businesses that were plundered for fees & charges, asset stripped, subject to a dishonestly engineered under valuation so that it could be bought by the bank and/or the Bank's own 'Equity Investment' arms (such as West Register in the case of RBS, or Lloyds Development Capital in the case of Lloyds Banking Group), and/or the bank's preferred partners and/or 'Core' customers, or worse in the years following the financial crisis, have long encountered an inconceivable 'Oversight Hierarchy Stonewall' when presenting evidence of wrongdoing, dishonesty and even criminality in respect to such cases.
Many of us have long suspected that there are significant conflicts of interests at play here. It is difficult to conceive any other explanation such is the extraordinary degree to which multiple regulators, Government bodies, police and even the SFO (Serious Fraud Office) have gone to so as to ensure that none of the many thousands of cases are investigated properly if at all.
Following the broadcast of BBC Panorama's 'The Billion Pound Saving Scandal' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-HoAyBSb74 ) I have been inundated with communications, information and evidence regarding both the ongoing Blackmore Bond case, and countless others. All of which adds significant pieces to the picture, and most of which raises disturbing further questions as to the role of regulators and the Police. (More on this to follow).
HOWEVER, within those communications was one regarding an altogether different matter to Investment scams on which the Panorama programme focused, but that immediately resonated with me. Could this be the 'Ground Zero' in terms of conflicts of interest that appear to be behind the 'Oversight Hierarchy Stonewall' and that which pre-determined and guaranteed that no 'victim' of the likes of RBS GRG, Lloyds BSU etc. would have their case investigated properly, if at all?
Often the business owners suffer from lack of evidence due to a dishonest concealment and unfair UK laws that deprive businesses of rights to information that individuals have. An aspect of UK law that clearly emboldens and encourages such wrongdoing, because the bank and its employees know the business does not have the right to obtain such information. Not unless they embark on hugely costly litigation. A route that the bank and its partners have essentially already closed off by way of the destruction of the business or their various methods used to deprive the business of capital, including engineering or even faking defaults. (See the incredibly important but always 'overlooked' section 4 of Lawrence Tomlinson's Government commissioned report from 2013 that can be found here http://www.tomlinsonreport.com/docs/tomlinsonReport.pdf )
HOWEVER, many business owners have managed to obtain substantial evidence from a variety of sources including whistleblowers from within the bank, whistleblowers from within Business Turnaround Companies, the large accountancy firms and other firms used as 'Trojan horses' by the banks and their partners.
Many of us have prepared and submitted reports and made protected [Whistleblower] disclosures to banks, regulators (including The FCA, ICAEW, FRC, RICS) and to law enforcement Agencies including local police forces, City of London Police and the Serious Fraud Office, all of which contain irrefutable evidence of dishonesty, breaches of numerous regulatory codes and, yes, fraud & other criminal conduct.
Yet, at every turn, we have encountered the same Stonewall.
Perhaps more disturbingly, is that almost all of those Oversight bodies referred to will initially go to extraordinary lengths not to even review the report or evidence in the first instance.
If you are able to overcome that Stonewall, you will inevitably encounter the next one, where the body finds a reason, honest or dishonest, not to open an actual investigation, or claim they have investigated and inconceivably conclude there is not sufficient evidence to warrant any further investigation or action.
Sadly, one of the most frequently used conclusions that I have to use in reports to my law firm clients is:
"The position [or disclosure] put forward by the bank/party, is so inconceivable that it is actually impossible, and therefore can only be dishonest....."
and I proceed to provide the evidence and reasons why this is so.
To be clear, banks are the ultimate in efficient money generating machines, and their lawyers are among the most highly paid in the world. There is nothing they do not know, there is nothing they do not understand and there is no law or obligation that they are not aware of.
THEREFORE, when you encounter that which makes no sense or is inconceivable and therefore impossible, there is generally a rat. You just need to find the rat and determine how smelly it is.
Typically, most of that which is 'smelly' is borne of a wrongdoing, crime or dishonesty that is subsequently subject to conflicts of interest. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Lowballing of LIBOR during the financial crisis, or the attempts by Sajid Javid MP when at HM Treasury to interfere with The FCA IRHP Review on the orders of George Osborne, who himself was responding to pressure from the banks and acting on their behalf in an effort to deprive thousands of SME Customers of an estimated £10billion plus in rightful compensation. All of which is documented by John Swift QC in his findings from his 'Independent Investigation' of The FCA IRHP Review, and is reported on here by Jasper Jolly of the Guardian on 14th December 2021.
In which he writes:
According to minutes of a meeting between the Treasury and the FSA that January, a Treasury official said: “The Treasury had been lobbied hard by the CEOs of the banks, particularly the two state-owned institutions. As a result, the chancellor had come to the opinion that the total redress costs needed to be reduced, and that the purpose of the meeting was for HMT [HM Treasury] to understand the FSA’s proposals in order to find ways to cut the cost.”
Clive Adamson, then the FSA’s director of supervision, said in the meeting that it was “inappropriate for HMT to intervene in this manner given the nature of its involvement in the issue”. In other words, the government had a conflict of interest given it was the major shareholder of Lloyds and RBS. In evidence to the review, Adamson said: “What was unusual here was a view clearly expressed about [the] desire of ministers to … question what we were doing and I think it’s fair to say that we were disappointed in that.” Javid personally lobbied to cut the costs for banks, expressing concerns “about where to ‘draw the line’” as to which customers were eligible, and he and a Treasury official pushed for “flexibility”, the review said. Javid is a former investment banker at Deutsche Bank, which was not involved in the mis-selling scandal. A spokesperson for Osborne said: “The report is thorough and self-explanatory and he has nothing to add.” Javid has been approached for comment through the health department. The Treasury has previously denied that Javid was involved, telling the Times in 2019 that the alteration to the redress scheme was solely the responsibility of the Financial Services Authority. In the same report the newspaper cited a Treasury source saying “discussions took place at a ‘higher level’ than Mr Javid”. The review “found no explanation” why the cap was imposed and said there was not a “level playing field” between banks and customers, who were shut out of talks.
The measures that Javid, Osborne and the banks wanted included into the IRHP Review were introduced by The FCA in January 2013, and would exclude a further 5,000+ UK Business customers from the Review on the basis of a wholly dishonest retrospective 're-classification' of these customers as 'sophisticated'. This is in addition to the 5,000+ that had already been excluded from the IRHP Review by way of an 'Initial' sophistication criteria included at the outset of the Review, and again at the behest, and on behalf of, the banks.
John Swift QC determined that The FCA acted unlawfully when it introduced these retrospective sophistication criteria. A finding that The FCA is not only seeking to ignore but is currently spending copious amounts of money on external lawyers to defend an application by the APPG Business Banking seeking a Judicial Review on the FCA's failure to act on these findings of their own instructed 'Independent Investigation'.
The APPG is formed of a number of UK MP's. An MP's correct title is a 'Lawmaker'. So, to be clear, the Lawmakers that created the laws that The FCA has a duty to uphold (FSMA [Financial Services and Markets Act] in particular), have told The FCA that they are failing to uphold the laws they created, and refer to and rely upon the same findings of John Swift QC who was actually appointed to investigate by The FCA, and are seeking a Judicial Review to that effect............and The FCA is paying copious amounts of cash to external law firm Dentons seeking to prevent it. (Dentons by the way whose conduct features prominently in the 'Project Lord Turnbull' report produced by Sally Masterson of HBOS/LBG in respect to the HBOS Reading fraud and the dishonest concealment of it by the bank. More on this below.)
Essentially The FCA is spending cash on behalf of the banks and the reputations of FCA executives past and present.
It is our estimate that this 'Unlawful' introduction of the retrospective sophistication criteria by The FCA on behalf of the banks deprived those business of more than £10billion in compensation that they were rightfully owed.
In January 2017 the first cracks began to appear in the Stonewall when several Lloyds Banking Group employees and third parties working for a 'Trojan Horse' Business Turnaround company were convicted of a massive fraud against multiple LBG business customers. This has become known as the HBOS Reading fraud.
However, the prosecution and convictions did more than just secure substantial sentences and force the bank to agree to pay multi-millions of pounds in compensation (albeit some still do not have any compensation despite repeated assurances by the bank). They also exposed the relationships between the bank employees and its various 'partners', and the various mechanisms and practises that they deployed when committing the fraud.
It became abundantly clear that those within many banks were using identical mechanisms & practises and identical relationships, involving large accountancy firms, Business Turnaround Companies, lawyers, valuers, Insolvency practitioners etc., as those used by the HBOS Reading fraudsters, but to their own gain and benefit.
Many of these firms and 'professionals' were forced on the business customers by managers at their bank, and were forced to pay their extortionate fees but, rather than act in the interests of their client (the business customer that was paying their fees), they were little more than Trojan Horses who sought to serve the interests of the banking personnel involved, and pursued their desired agenda and narrative.
However, despite the HBOS Reading fraud convictions and their revelations, and despite the overwhelming evidence that was being obtained by victims, and despite the number of whistleblowers coming forward with astonishing evidence and testimony, if anything, the 'Stonewall' became greater, and the efforts of The FCA, ICAEW, FRC and the likes of the SFO became ever more inconceivable.
Evidence of a disturbing collusion between The FCA, ICAEW and the SFO has emerged. A quite extraordinary 'Get our ducks in a row' collusion, but one that has had to rely on representations that are now so far removed form reality that they are contradicting previous representations by these various parties.
This 'collusion' between, and even clear dishonesty by, various members of the hierarchy of oversight should be extraordinary and unthinkable. However, every increasing discoveries by diligent people and journalists suggest that this is far from new, and far from limited to these matters.
Indeed, everyone should listen to the quite incredible Podcast series produced by Andy Verity of the BBC earlier this year. Only 5 episodes and each only about 15 minutes long, but explosive and utterly compelling.
This series unravels a sequence of events that involved the banks, the BBA (British Banking Association, the 'Regulator of LIBOR and that has since morphed into 'UK Finance'), The FCA, Bank of England, The Government, the SFO and even raised the most serious concerns in respect to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) and judiciary, all of which resulted in the concealment of bank, BBA, Bank of England and Government manipulation of LIBOR, and instead saw the 'smokescreen' pursuit of convictions against cherry picked 'scapegoats' for conduct that it has now been established was within the rules, and that has resulted in similar convictions in the U.S. being overturned this year.
I spent several hours discussing the HIBU case with those involved, and they directed me to this website that contains the story and evidence, so much of which bears all of the same hallmarks of regulatory and law enforcement 'indifference' and/or worse.
Neville Kahn of Deloitte's was involved in this HIBU 'Administration'. Mr Kahn was also involved in the infamous 2012 'Comet' [Large UK Electrical Retailer] administration. He and Deloitte were recipients of a then record fine by the ICAEW in 2020 for various 'failures' in the execution of that Administration.
However, despite the fines by the ICAEW in the Comet case, it still rather feels like an action taken because there was no other choice but to, and the sanctions imposed were still rather the 'least they could do', and largely because the case had received so much publicity. Mr Kahn's Deloitte colleague on the Comet Case was Nicholas Edwards. Mr Edwards was heavily involved in the disturbing 'Administrations' of the Angel Group and Angelic Interiors. A case where Deloitte's replaced KPMG and KPMG Partner, David Crawshaw as Administrators. Many of you will be aware that Mr Crawshaw and KPMG also features heavily in the 'Project Lord Turnbull Report', mentioned earlier, that is the findings of a Lloyds Bank Investigation of the HBOS Reading fraud.
I do not allege wrongdoing or criminality was involved in the HIBU case. I suggest readers visit the website, review the evidence published for themselves and form their own opinions, and follow the ongoing legal proceedings being pursued by investors. Legal proceedings they have been forced to pursue in the U.S. due to the actions, or lack thereof, of any UK regulator or law enforcement agency.
HOWEVER, my concern is the likes of those that might potentially be exposed were the HIBU case to be properly investigated by regulators and law enforcement in the UK.
Bob Wigley was Chairman of HIBU, and is the current Chairman of UK Finance. Both he and UK Finance have interesting pasts. Mr Wigley was EMEA Chairman of Merrill Lynch between 2003 and 2009, a bank that during his tenure had managed its affairs so recklessly that it had to be rescued by an acquisition by Bank of America.
UK Finance is the new guise of the BBA (British Banking Association), a body that was supposed to 'regulate' LIBOR, but instead was deeply and dishonestly entrenched in the manipulation of LIBOR and subsequent concealment of it, even to the point where it and its officers have made multiple false representations in both the Courts and the media.
Mr Wigley's various bio's reveal a variety of other senior roles and high profile connections:
"Between 2006 and 2009 he was a member of the Court of the Bank of England."
"He is a past member of the Takeover Panel, the FSA’s Senior Practitioners Panel and was the FSA’s nominated representative on the Council of European Securities Regulators Market Consultation Panel."
"....Wigley was appointed an "ambassador for UK Business" by David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, in 2011."
"Mr Wigley was described by the Telegraph as "The UK's Best Connected Businessman".
Again, I make no allegation here against Mr Wigley or others.
What I do highlight is the significant conflicts of interests that exists in this case for the Government (including the Office of the Prime Minister), the Bank of England, BBA (UK Finance), The FCA and others in the hierarchy of oversight.
There are some quite disturbing allegations made by HIBU investors and substantial evidence published that would appear to support them and there are clearly numerous concerning issues that remain, for the want off a better term, 'Un-addressed'.
And herein lies the key for me. If the system and regulation works correctly then HIBU investors and the countless owners of businesses that were forced into Administration, would have no unanswered questions and no 'un-addressed' issues. The whole point of a legitimate and honest system is to ensure fairness, transparency and justice, and to establish the truth, the facts and the answers. Yet, all of them have multiple unanswered questions and 'un-addressed' issues.
I discussed at length with HIBU investors the issues and questions they had. Almost a decade on they are multiple, and they explained just some of them:
1. Why did the Directors essentially asset strip the PLC, by moving all assets to subsidiaries? Even though the subsidiaries were all under the group umbrella and owned by shareholders.
1.1. What mechanism removed these subsidiaries from the group structure, and why were the markets, or shareholders never informed?
2. Why did the Board of Directors not disclose the two offers received for the US side of the business of between $1.3 and $1.65 billion dollars? Why did they not consider this as it would have effectively made the UK group debt free after secondary market buy backs.
3. Despite various secondary market debt purchases between 2009 and 2013 which helped to reduce debt from a high of £4.4 billion to £2.1 billion, why did the Board of Directors change the memorandum and articles of the company to prevent any further debt buy back?
4. Why did the Board default on a £49 million scheduled loan payment, despite having cash on hand of £230 million? This effectively handed the company over to the lenders for no reason.
5. Why did Deloitte report no Current Assets, or explain the 'disappearance' of assets, for the group in their Administrator’s Statement of Proposals? Below is the audited statement from Yell 2011 accounts for Current Assets:
And below is Deloitte’s version showing the unexplained 'disappearance' of those substantial assets:
It is reasonable to say that even the launch of an investigation of the HIBU case would be concerning for the aforementioned parties & bodies and their reputations, and any potential findings of wrongdoing or impropriety of any kind would be incredibly damaging for all.
The consequence of such a conflict of interest in this case, would be for the same conflicts of interests to be 'projected' on to any and all cases where similar practises, similar relationships etc. are evident, most notably in the thousands of cases involving RBS GRG, LBG BSU and the equivalent departments at other banks.
Investigate or prosecute so much as one of those cases, it creates a precedent that could be used by any party that believes it to be a victim of the same, including the HIBU investors, to force investigation of their case.
This would clearly not be desirable for those significant parties & bodies that would be potentially embarrassed and/or reputationally damaged if an investigation of the HIBU case did conclude that wrongdoing had occurred.
THEREFORE, the course of action that would benefit those connected and conflicted parties, would be to investigate none of the cases where any of this conduct or hallmarks existed.
Hence, my reasonable question; Are the conflicts of interest that exist in this case, the reason for the quite extraordinary 'Oversight Hierarchy Stonewall' that many of us experts and thousands of business customers have experienced over the course of the past decade?
Another key concern in respect to Mr Wigley's history is this extract from another of his bios:
"Robert Wigley [was] a member of the board of the Bank of England during the 2008 financial crisis."
I refer you again to the 'Lowball Tapes' series by Andy Verity that unequivocally establishes the manipulation of LIBOR during the Financial Crisis and that involved the Banks, Bank of England, the Government and the BBA (the previous incarnation of UK Finance, of which Mr Wigley is now Chair and that was responsible for regulation of LIBOR.) all of whom have since dishonestly sought to conceal that manipulation, whilst pursuing criminal prosecutions against a variety of scapegoats who acted within the rules.
It is more than a reasonable question to ask what part, if any, did Mr Wigley play, or what awareness, if any, did Mr Wigley have, in the Lowballing of LIBOR, and the subsequent concealment of it, given his position in the Bank of England at that time, and whilst Chair of a Bank that would benefit from the Lowballing in question?
I presented a copy of this blog article to the UK Finance Press Office for their comment or to raise any legitimate challenge to any of the content, and by 5.00pm today. They did neither, and did not seek further time from me in which to provide any comment or challenge.