“Nicholas Wilson’s revelations on HSBC fraud in Britain constitute the worst and largest single case of banking fraud to have ever emerged in this country. They make the Swiss leaks case look like peanuts. And yet their cause is something apparently mundane and routine: debt collection for high-street retailers.” Nafeez Ahmed
Exposing £1bn fraud by HSBC (HFC Bank) that has been covered up or ignored by all the regulators and police involved. I am now working on a private criminal prosecution of the bank and solicitors, and a civil group action, to obtain compensation for victims.
This is me discussing the fraud and cover-up on The Big Questions on BBC1.
This story seems to be finally unraveling. Questions were asked in Parliament on 10 February 2015 as to why the Financial Conduct Authority has taken no action and colluded with the bank to cover it up.
I used to be head of debt recovery at Weightmans solicitors and acted for the John Lewis Partnership for 25 years. I now reveal that hundreds of thousands of people have paid, or are still paying “collection charges”, unlawful contingency fees which were added to balances if they defaulted on the following accounts that the bank handled: John Lewis, Dixons, Currys, B&Q, PC World, Furniture Village; Marbles and GM Card credit cards and loans from HFC Bank and Beneficial Finance.
There is no provision for these charges in the consumer credit agreements – it is basically fraud and extortion. Here is simple definition of fraud:
The charges were added by Restons solicitors, and Weightmans, who kept the money for their fees, so the bank paid nothing. The charges ranged from about £500 to over £5,000. The solicitors make millions.
My boss at Weightmans used to refer to me as Mr Ethical when I constantly reminded him that the charges were illegal. John Lewis had always treated debtors fairly. As soon as the bank took over HFC started adding illegal charges.
This is Restons’ boss, Christopher Reston’s private jet which he personally flew to the UK from his tax haven Andorra home:
The chairman of HSBC at the time, Stephen Green was made a Lord in 2010, one day before the OFT signed an order against the bank forbidding them from adding the illegal charges, and was Trade Minister in David Cameron’s government.
In August 2012 I reported HSBC to the Financial Services Authority, the bank’s solicitor, Duncan Hamilton, and the firm of Restons to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (see blog). Since my report Hamilton has left HSBC and since March 2013 he has worked with Restons as a consultant. Despite the OFT order, the Financial Conduct Authority (the supposed regulator of banks) have recently told me that the reason they didn’t investigate my report of fraud was because the bank were entitled to add the charges! The FCA and HSBC have colluded in lying to me and others about the fraud.
I told Duncan Hamilton in 2003 that the charges were unlawful, but the bank and solicitors carried on applying them until ordered to stop by the Office of Fair Trading in 2010. This is from the order of the Office of Fair Trading:
This is the link to their press release.
I want to see people held to account for this fraud and for the bank’s customers (often sub-prime borrowers) to be compensated. HSBC bought HFC bank in 2003, but the unlawful charges had been applied by Restons before then and I estimate in total for at least 20 years. It is even possible that HSBC had not known about this until my exposure.
HSBC are telling the media a litany of lies to try to avoid exposure (see blog pages)
Because Weightmans continued to either ignore my complaints about the charges, or claim they were not illegal, I reported them to the Law Society in 2006 and was immediately sacked. The Law Society confirmed that the practice was unlawful but took no action, there was a cover-up and Weightmans continued to apply the charges – although I don’t know on what basis, it was still in breach of Solicitor Rules.
The average sum added was £1,500 and in some cases over £5,000. I conservatively estimate at least 600,000 people have been affected (16.4% of the debt was added to the total claimed, before the solicitors did any work) amounting to some £1bn in unlawful charges. These charges can be reclaimed under the Consumer Credit Act.* I will keep campaigning for justice for consumers, and would hope that the bank would work with me to achieve this.
Most of the evidence is on this site (I have held some back). For more details and copy documents please contact me.
I remain unemployed, am on sickness benefit (depression) and face being repossessed.
*I have helped some people recover these charges, with interest, and I will continue to do so for no fee.