Banks come under fire from small businesses

Lloyds has set aside 100m for victims of the fraud at the hands of HBOS Reading staff
Lloyds has set aside 100m for victims of the fraud at the hands of HBOS Reading staff
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Two banks bailed out by the taxpayer, RBS and Lloyds, have come under fire ​from small business owners claiming that the banks have destroyed thousands of businesses. Speaking at a meeting in London organised by pressure group the SME Alliance, panellists called on the ​Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to publish its findings into RBS's treatment of small business customers. The most vocal panellist was TV presenter Noel Edmonds​, who is seeking £300m in compensation from Lloyds after falling victim to fraud at the hands of former HBOS Reading staff. Mr Edmonds said Lloyds' CEO Antonio Horta Osorio must have known about the misdeeds of staff at HBOS, which the banking group rescued at the height of the financial crisis. "Horta Osorio can't have it both ways​," said Mr Edmonds. ​"Y​ou're either really good at your job and therefore you know about wrongdoing in your business, or you're not. ​​"So, I don't see how he can keep saying, and shrug his shoulders, that we didn't know about all that was going on in HBOS or Lloyds, because, Mr Osorio, it's your job to know. ​You're either a s​***​ banker or you're a liar." ​Lloyds said that ​Mr​ Edmonds' allegations that Lloyds must have known about the criminality were completely false. A Lloyds spokesman said: “Although HBOS was aware of allegations regarding HBOS Reading, investigations undertaken at the time could only consider information directly held by the bank, which was shared with regulators. "While concerns regarding the misconduct of certain HBOS individuals were identified, there was not sufficient evidence to establish criminal behaviour. The police and regulators were the appropriate authorities to conduct the investigation." ​Lloyds has set aside £100​m for victims of the fraud at the hands of HBOS Reading staff between 2003 and 2007. ​Mr Edmonds said he was recently contacted by F​CA boss Andrew Bailey after receiving a leaked copy of the financial watchdog's Section 166 report into the activities of RBS' global restructuring group (GRG). "Andrew Bailey at the FCA sent me a letter, making it very clear that if I did anything other than keep it to myself, it's a criminal offence," Mr Edmonds said. RBS' turnaround unit GRG is alleged to have intentionally pushed businesses towards failure in hopes of picking up their assets on the cheap​.​ Among the audience was Peter Holdsworth​,​ who blames RBS for the collapse of his Pontefract-based business Carleton Furniture Group​. ​The group went into administration in 2011, ending 100 years of production. The group's factory in Pontefract helped the war effort in World War II​ ​by making 800 of the gliders that were used in​ ​the D Day landings​.​ ​Mr Holdsworth said: "RBS ruined my company. ​A lot of people have been badly hurt and financially ruined. RBS needs to be brought to account for what it has done. ​"​There are over 14​,​000 companies taken out by RBS and the FCA report​ ​being withheld has been done purely to shelter​ ​RBS from the significant public disgust that would ensue if all the​ ​elements of the report were made public, not to mention the financial​ ​and reputational costs​." A spokesman for RBS said: "The FCA’s summary of the Skilled Person’s findings made clear that all SME customers transferred to GRG were exhibiting clear signs of financial difficulty. It also made clear that, in a significant majority of cases, it was likely RBS’ actions did not result in material financial distress to these customers. “At the time we acknowledged that in some areas, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, we could have done better for some SME customers in GRG.​" On the panel was ​​Anthony Stansfeld​, ​Thames Valley Police and​ ​Crime Commissioner​, who said the FCA should publish its report on RBS. "If they (the FCA) are aware of those crimes, they should publish the report," he said. Also on the panel was George Kerevan​, ​former ​c​hairman of the APPG on​ ​Fair Business Banking​,​ who said: "Of course it should be published. "These reports should be routinely published. "The FCA should be given the resources to conduct these reports themselves."​

Speaking at a meeting in London organised by pressure group the SME Alliance, panellists called on the ​Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to publish its findings into RBS's treatment of small business customers.

The most vocal panellist was TV presenter Noel Edmonds​, who is seeking £300m in compensation from Lloyds after falling victim to fraud at the hands of former HBOS Reading staff.

Mr Edmonds said Lloyds' CEO Antonio Horta Osorio must have known about the misdeeds of staff at HBOS, which the banking group rescued at the height of the financial crisis.

"Horta Osorio can't have it both ways​," said Mr Edmonds.

​"Y​ou're either really good at your job and therefore you know about wrongdoing in your business, or you're not.

​​"So, I don't see how he can keep saying, and shrug his shoulders, that we didn't know about all that was going on in HBOS or Lloyds, because, Mr Osorio, it's your job to know. ​You're either a s​***​ banker or you're a liar."

​Lloyds said that ​Mr​ Edmonds' allegations that Lloyds must have known about the criminality were completely false.

A Lloyds spokesman said: “Although HBOS was aware of allegations regarding HBOS Reading, investigations undertaken at the time could only consider information directly held by the bank, which was shared with regulators.

"While concerns regarding the misconduct of certain HBOS individuals were identified, there was not sufficient evidence to establish criminal behaviour. The police and regulators were the appropriate authorities to conduct the investigation."

​Lloyds has set aside £100​m for victims of the fraud at the hands of HBOS Reading staff between 2003 and 2007.

​Mr Edmonds said he was recently contacted by F​CA boss Andrew Bailey after receiving a leaked copy of the financial watchdog's Section 166 report into the activities of RBS' global restructuring group (GRG).

"Andrew Bailey at the FCA sent me a letter, making it very clear that if I did anything other than keep it to myself, it's a criminal offence," Mr Edmonds said.

RBS' turnaround unit GRG is alleged to have intentionally pushed businesses towards failure in hopes of picking up their assets on the cheap​.​

Among the audience was Peter Holdsworth​,​ who blames RBS for the collapse of his Pontefract-based business Carleton Furniture Group​.

​The group went into administration in 2011, ending 100 years of production. The group's factory in Pontefract helped the war effort in World War II​ ​by making 800 of the gliders that were used in​ ​the D Day landings​.​

​Mr Holdsworth said: "RBS ruined my company. ​A lot of people have been badly hurt and financially ruined. RBS needs to be brought to account for what it has done.

​"​There are over 14​,​000 companies taken out by RBS. The FCA report​ ​being withheld has been done purely to shelter​ ​RBS from the significant public disgust that would ensue if all the​ ​elements of the report were made public, not to mention the financial​ ​and reputational costs​."

A spokesman for RBS said: "The FCA’s summary of the Skilled Person’s findings made clear that all SME customers transferred to GRG were exhibiting clear signs of financial difficulty. It also made clear that, in a significant majority of cases, it was likely RBS’ actions did not result in material financial distress to these customers.

“At the time we acknowledged that in some areas, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, we could have done better for some SME customers in GRG.​"

On the panel was ​​Anthony Stansfeld​, ​Thames Valley Police and​ ​Crime Commissioner​, who said the FCA should publish its report on RBS.

"If they (the FCA) are aware of those crimes, they should publish the report," he said.

Also on the panel was George Kerevan​, ​former ​c​hairman of the APPG on​ ​Fair Business Banking​,​ who said: "Of course it should be published.

"These reports should be routinely published.

"The FCA should be given the resources to conduct these reports themselves."​