Justice delayed by Lloyds
It is more than five years since the then chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, Antonio Horta-Osório, promised swift recompense to victims of the fraud by bankers working in the mid-2000s at the Reading branch of HBOS, which LBG took over in 2008.
In that half decade Lloyds has instituted three reviews of the cases, the third under the auspices of the Business Banking Resolution Service, a body set up by the banks to deal with historical claims, but which seems to have incurred £30m of costs without paying anything like as much to victims of banking misdemeanours.
Also Sir Antonio – as we now need to call him as he has been given a knighthood – has left LBG, taking a job at Credit Suisse and being kicked out of that.
And let’s not forget that LBG has also asked retired judge Dame Linda Dobbs to review the behaviour of senior executives at the bank over the HBOS Reading fraud. That review began five years ago and not a word of it has appeared.
In the meantime the victims of HBOS Reading scandal have been suffering continued hardship thanks to the fraud. Some have gone bust, some families have broken up, some people have become ill and not a few of them have died. The lobby group, SME Alliance, has worked hard for victims but with limited resources it has been an uneven battle against a multi-billion pound bank.
So while it is welcome the offer from LBG to pay the remaining claimants – of whom there are estimated to be around 200 - £3m each, you have to wonder why it took so long? Cynically, when I was advising the HBOS Reading victims, I said that resolution would be delayed until Horta-Osório had left LBG and there was no-one involved in the scandal or the cover up still at the bank. It is galling to be proven right, but at least the new chief executive, Charlie Nunn (who only joined LBG last year), is finally doing the decent thing.
But, as Victorian Prime Minister, William Gladstone, famously said: “Justice delayed, is justice denied.”