Exposing £1bn fraud by HSBC (HFC Bank)
I used to be head of debt recovery at Weightmans solicitors and worked in debt recovery 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. 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.
This is Restons’ boss, Christopher Reston’s private jet which he flies to the UK from tax haven Andorra:
The chairman of HSBC at the time, Stephen Green was made a Lord in 2010, one day before the OFT published an order against the bank forbidding them from adding the illegal charges, and is now 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 works with Restons as a consultant.
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 15 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 Law Society rules.
The average sum added was £1,500 and in some cases over £5,000. I conservatively estimate about 500,000 people have been affected (16.4% of the debt was added to the total claimed, before the solicitors did any work) amounting to some £750,000,000 in unlawful charges and possibly as much as £1bn. 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. For more details and copy documents please contact me.
*I have helped some people recover these charges, with interest, and I will continue to do so for no fee.