Shock at sudden death of former HSBC banker

This article appeared in the Cumberland and Westmoreland Herald on 5 April. Adrian Hill was more than a campaigner against new homes. He is the former CEO of HFC Bank, which was purchased by HSBC in 2004. Mr Hill took his own life on 29 March. A human tragedy and I extend my sincere sympathies to his family and friends.

HFC Bank specialised in sub-prime lending, both in the UK and the US. It was HSBC’s purchase of HFC which precipitated  the world financial crisis in 2007/8. HSBC had legitimised sup-prime lending. The first sign of crisis was HSBC’s profit warning in February 2007. The crisis was caused by CDOs (collateralized debt obligations), bundles of toxic debt which banks traded fraudulently between each other, and the promotion of which Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid specialised in at Deutsche Bank. Adrian Hill was a donor to the Tory Party.

Adrian Hill’s wife owns an estate in Argyll and Hill himself owned a farm in Cumbria and a house in Henley-on-Thames. In the UK HFC Bank was defrauding its customers by adding illegal charges to debts which were referred to solicitors for collection. For example, at the moment I am assisting a blind man who had about £5,000 added to his debt. His debt has now been repaid but he is still paying the illegal charge at the rate of £90. He lost his job because of losing his sight. I have advised him that he should stop paying and can reclaim all the costs he has paid to date, with interest.

I personally had no dealings with Adrian Hill and did not know him.

Christopher Reston, the owner of  Restons, one of the firms of solicitors employed by HFC (the other was Weightmans, where I worked and on whom I blew the whistle) lives in tax haven Andorra and used to fly his own private jet to work in the UK. Restons are a small firm in Warrington specialising in debt recovery.

As a result of my campaign HSBC has “voluntarily” agreed to repay £4m of these illegal charges. However, I have estimated that the total in charges over the years is in excess of £1bn, and a realistic figure for reimbursement since HSBC purchased HFC is in excess of £100m and my campaign continues. The Complaints Commissioner (who oversees complaints against the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been monitoring the FCA’s progress, following an excoriating report he made against them after my complaint. The Complaints Commissioner told me this in February –

“The position is that I am reassured that the FCA is continuing to pursue the issues which have been raised, and that there are reasons why the matter has not yet been resolved.

However, the FCA has undertaken to produce a substantive update in May, including information which I can share with you.”

I know that Mr Hill had been having problems with the FCA previously as was reported in the Times in December 2018:

“Adrian Hill, a former senior banker with HSBC, has accused the Financial Conduct Authority of being “a very nasty bully” after its crackdown last year led to the bankruptcy of his rent-to-own business, with the loss of 700 jobs.

“He ran HFC, one of the biggest subprime lenders in Britain, which was bought by HSBC in 2004. While at HSBC Mr Hill was also in charge of its First Direct business and M&S Bank. He later became a non-executive director of Tesco Bank and chairman of its risk committee, and chairman of Lowell, Britain’s biggest debt collection company. He now farms in Cumbria, has an estate in Argyll and is the chairman of Eaton House Schools, a group of private schools in Belgravia, London.

The company [Buy as You View], based in Bridgend, south Wales, sold household appliances to poorer people on high-interest terms. It failed in 2017 after the FCA ruled that it should pay compensation to some customers. That £1 million bill was dwarfed by the £4.5 million in fees it had to pay to outside experts, including KPMG, brought in on the orders of the FCA, which crippled the business. It went bust because it was “impossible economically to do all the utterly useless . . . credit underwriting enforced on us by the FCA,” Mr Hill said.”