HBOS report to severly criticise former bosses

A much-delayed report into what went wrong in the run up to the collapse of HBOS will be published today at noon, once more heaping severe criticism on its former bosses and putting pressure on regulators for their handling of the inquiry.

Staff outside Lloyds HBOS Bank headquarters, Trinity Road, Halifax

But reports suggest it is now too late to fine any former executives deemed responsible for the lender’s demise and subsequent taxpayer bailout, leaving authorities powerless to levy penalties.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) will publish the 500-page report, which has been delayed by more than a year due to lengthy legal wrangling, with a separate 100-page document due alongside it by Andrew Green QC looking at why only one former HBOS executive, Peter Cummings, was formally investigated and fined.

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HBOS whistleblower Paul Moore spoke to the Yorkshire Post just minutes after he was able to leave the Bank of England after reviewing the report.

Skipton Building Society, chairman Mike Ellis. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News

He said the findings have severe consequences for the bank’s former directors and the functioning of the then Financial Services Authority, and also point to the need for a detailed investigation into the bank’s auditing and accounting.

He said: “Some of the evidence, even flabbergasted me. This now requires a detailed investigation with convictions.”

He said he was shocked to read in the report that between 2008 and 2011, the bank suffered multi-billion pound losses.

Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield, said: “It’s been eight years now since the banking sector plunged the country into a financial crisis, and almost nobody from the sector has been properly held to account.

“HBOS’s dismal leadership led to many of the bank’s customers, shareholders and employees losing their money and their livelihood, including many of my constituents in Huddersfield. I fear we have yet to learn the lessons of this sorry story, but I hope this report alongside the trailblazing campaigning of the HBOS whistleblower Paul Moore goes some way to restoring integrity the banking sector.”

It is thought that regulators may look to ban ex-HBOS chief executives Andy Hornby and James Crosby, as well as past chairman Lord Stevenson, from working in financial services - the only sanction available as fines are no longer seen as possible, because the report has taken more than six years to produce.

​Former HBOS finance director Mike Ellis, now the chairman of Skipton Building Society​, has previously been exonerated but could come in for criticism in the new report.

​Former City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), is also likely to come under harsh criticism for its supervision of the bank in the lead up to its failure.

Auditors KPMG may also come under fire amid speculation the report will reveal HBOS directors leant on the firm to sign off lower bad loan write-offs in 2008 to ease concerns about its finances.

This could see former KPMG chairman John Griffith-Jones come under fresh scrutiny, given his current role chairing the FCA.

HBOS, which was formed from the merger of Halifax and Bank of Scotland in 2001, expanded too rapidly and lent recklessly before the credit crunch and financial crisis struck.

It agreed to a rescue takeover by Lloyds in September 2008, but the enlarged bank needed a £20.5​bn taxpayer bailout just weeks later.

A damning report by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in April 2013 accused the trio of bankers who ran HBOS in the run-up to its dramatic collapse of a “colossal failure of management”.

Their ‘’toxic’’ misjudgments led to the bank’s downfall at the height of the financial crisis, the influential commission of MPs and peers found.

Mr Crosby was stripped of his knighthood at his own request following the report, which said he was the “architect of the strategy that set the course for disaster”.

He also gave up 30​ per cent​ of his £580,000-a-year pension and stood down from roles at catering giant Compass and private equity firm Bridgepoint.

But Mr Cummings - who ran the commercial arm at HBOS - is the only former director at the bank to have been penalised by the FSA, after being fined £500,000 and banned for life from working in the City.

Mr Hornby is now chief operating officer of Gala Coral - which is being taken over by rival Ladbrokes to create a £2.3​bn gambling giant - which has been supportive of him and is once again expected to back its senior executive after the latest report.