I worked in debt recovery for many years and acted for the John Lewis Partnership, who sold their store account business to HFC Bank in 2003. HFC is a subsidiary of HSBC and immediately on taking over the business the bank started adding illegal charges to accounts in default. A new company, John Lewis Financial Services Limited was created and without changing any terms and conditions in the credit agreements HSBC began adding 16.4% of the debt when the account was passed to solicitors for collection. So, on a £10,000 debt the bank added £1,640 to cover their legal costs, regardless of how much work was done by their solicitors.
The same practice was carried out by HFC Bank who handled the accounts for the following High Street stores – Dixons, PCWorld, Curry’s, Furniture Village, Courts, Halfords, B&Q. HFC was also a sub-prime lender and made personal loans up to £25,ooo under the names HFC Bank, Beneficial Finance and Hamilton Direct. They also owned the credit cards Marbles, and GE Credit. Anybody who defaulted on an account with any of these companies before 2010 and had the account was passed to either Weightmans or Restons solicitors, would have had a “collection charge” of 16.4% illegally added to their account. The charges were unlawful for a number of reasons and breached 2 sections of the Solicitors Code of Practice.
In 2010 the Office of Fair Trading made an order against the bank telling them to stop adding the charges. The order was dated 17 November 2010 but not made public. On 16 November 2010 it was announced that David Cameron was going to make HSBC Chair Stephen Green a Lord –
On 22 November Lord Green was introduced to the House of Lords
Also on the same day the Office of Fair Trading published the order against HFC Bank in a press release relating to creditors using Charging Orders oppressively to recover debts. Nothing to do with “collection charges” and the order was in a footnote to the press release as a pdf attachment. It was therefore buried away and was not reported by the media. Cameron had made it “go away”.
In 2012 I reported HSBC to the Financial Conduct Authority. They did nothing and then in 2014 when I made a Freedom of Information request to them asking what they had done they consulted HSBC as to how to respond, and copied and pasted text supplied to them by the bank to me. The text was 100% untrue and on 30 June 2014 I blogged about the collusion. The “cut and paste job” was also the subject of questions by the Treasury Select Committee.
My blog was then read by BBC, Houses of Parliament, Dow Jones, Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments (the bankers’ professional body), FCA and HSBC. Shortly thereafter it was announced that Cameron had appointed Rona Fairhead, an HSBC director, to the Chair of the BBC Trust. Since her appointment there have been no negative news stories about HSBC on the BBC apart from the Panorama documentary which aired in February 2015 and which presumably had been in preparation before Fairhead started in October 2014.
Just before Christmas I received a decision from the Complaints Commissioner on my complaint against the FCA for their lack of action over the fraud and their collusion with the bank. This was the final paragraph
And I received the apology this week:
I hope the FCA will now take appropriate action and that HSBC will repay the hundreds of thousands of fraud victims millions in compensation. They have already set aside a contingency fund of $1bn.
Whilst the FCA undertake their investigation the focus of my campaign is on the appointment of Rona Fairhead, which I believe was unlawful and I intend to make this public knowledge.