Hester….eyes too close together?

In its ruthless drive to get back on track, RBS is fleecing its customer base with abandon.

We had the lucrative glitch in June, the legal battle to stop Libor/Yen fraud coming out in July, the systemic property-purchase fraud earlier this month…and now shocking details are emerging of a long-established mis-selling scandal whereby SMEs have been pressured into buying toxic derivatives.

The bank is, naturally, RBS. While this scandal was cooking away nicely, the man in charge was ex-Sir Freddie Goodwin – a man thought by many in British business to have been un-Sirred disgracefully, he having “done nothing wrong”. Well, the banksterism I’m about to reveal happened on Fred’s watch. And now Fred is no more, Stephen Hester seems to be steadfast in his desire to keep everything covered up.

For several years now, Welshman Colin Jones has been fighting RBS about fraud and corruption in relation to the lending of funds to him: more generally, the mis-selling of complex derivatives to SMEs. His local MP Guto Bebb has raised questions about both Colin’s case, and the scandal of mis-selling to small business, in Parliament – with specific reference to RBS.

“When the North Wales Fraud department went to RBS and asked them to place charges against a solicitor involved in the fraud, RBS refused,” Colin alleges, asking, “how can a state owned bank refuse the police the opportunity to investigate fraud?”

Search me – I don’t know. Neither did Reuters after Mr Jones contacted them about the case. But when in 2007 Colin Jones went to RBS in search of £400,000 to buy a small hotel in North Wales, the bank craftily said he could have the money if he also took out an interest rate hedged derivative swap.

This was, the salesman told him, designed to protect Colin against interest rate rises. It was nothing of the sort: rather, it was a UXB waiting to go off. RBS sold the product in order to increase their margins via a whopping commission from the swap supplier. Just as the bank has been scamming small business property purchases by, at the last minute, revaluing their asset downwards and declaring them bankrupt, so in cases like the one that has ruined Jones’s life, they were lumbering an SME with a liability well beyond the buyer’s means.

Caveat emptor doesn’t apply in this case: no hotel entrepreneur is going to understand complex rate swaps – and the salesman lied. The bank stands accused of fraud, with a mountain of evidence to potentially convict it. But this Treasury-owned organisation is simply telling every form of authority to f**k off.

Colin’s hotel was repossessed in July 2011, after a sharp drop in rates during the financial crisis pushed charges on the deal to an unaffordable £30,000 pounds per annum. RBS, however, was hedged in the other direction: it picked up a 400 grand asset, producing a valuable addition to its battered balance sheet.

“I’ve lost my house, my wife and I have separated, I lost my self respect, and I lost the respect of my local community because they don’t see what’s going on in the background. People just assume that you’ve done something wrong,” Jones told Reuters earlier this year.

Having reviewed the facts of the case, Reuters naively opined that the practice ‘could become the UK banking industry’s next big scandal. An increasing number of firms that bought the disputed insurance products are claiming compensation, and their advisers say the bill could run into billions of pounds.’

Five months on, however, Stephen Hester is still Mr Wonderful as far as the Treasury Sir Humphreys are concerned.

There is a glaringly obvious moral to this tale: a bank whose stupid, illegal and reckless practices forced we the taxpayers to bail it out is now working hand in glove with the Government to try and recapitalise itself by stealing from small business. This is, I’m afraid, why Stephen Hester felt able to tell the North Wales SFO to go forth and multiply in relation to the Jones case.

In the case of RBS, in fact, George Osborne would do well to ask Hester to stop lending to the SME sector: by doing so, baldy is hastening its decline.

Thankfully, because other major UK banks have also been doing similar things, the sheer pressure from ambulance-chasing lawyers will become too great to resist: so in the medium term, Reuters is correct. But in the meantime, Colin Jones is skint and alone.
Ultimately, we aren’t going to get any help from government and the police forces of Britain in this case, because they’re on the same side as the banker-Treasury axis of sociopathy. This is when we can be sure that the Rule of Law has broken down in Britain, and all bets are off.

I offer this as a case to support asking a question of all the hacks doodling on their pads in the Conservative Party Conference Hall this week: “What in God’s name are you doing there?”

Related: How RBS is quietly dumping its debt liabilities on the taxpayer

An RBS property repossession fraud taking place on Stephen Hester’s watch

RBS cover-up of Canadian Libor manipulation fraud