The missing link in HSBC fraud cover-up

I have had a shocking realisation as to why the HSBC fraud exposed on these pages has been covered up by all the regulators. I have found the missing link – Antony Townsend

2006 – Anthony Townsend was the first CEO of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), from its inception in 2006. In the same year I reported my employer Weightmans solicitors to the SRA for industrial scale fraud, the adding of illegal charges to debts. As soon as I reported them they sacked me, but when I left we handled 70-80,000 such cases.

2007 After a year the SRA finally made its decision, which it didn’t make public. It stated that the charges were contingency fees (unlawful) but…

It was Mr Cox that used to refer to me as “Mr Ethical”. Weightmans carried on adding the charges after the SRA ruling.

2012 – In august 2012 I reported the other firm engaged in the fraud, Restons,  and HSBC solicitor Duncan Hamilton to the SRA.

2013 – This was the SRA finding, after a year of “investigation”:

This is despite the fact that I had sent them this from Weightmans (from our employment mediation) whom they had already adjudicated against for adding the illegal charges:

The SRA finding made no mention at all of Duncan Hamilton. The CEO of the SRA was still Antony Townsend.

2014 – In January 2014 I complained to the Legal Services Board  (LSB) who oversee the work of the SRA.  They sent this to me by email.

Dear Mr Wilson – thank you for your email of 21 January. I wrote to the SRA on 29 November and received a reply on 14 January; I enclose a copy of it. The SRA’s response says that it fully investigated the allegation about possible unlawful contingency fees by Restons and it found no evidence to support the specific allegation. As you are aware, the LSB has no power to intervene in individual cases and does not therefore intend to pursue this matter”

The LSB seem to have made their decision based on this, from a letter written to them by the SRA.

Antony Townsend was still CEO of the SRA.

In the meantime, in December 2012, I had reported HSBC (HFC) and John Lewis Financial Service Limited to the Financial Services Authority. They did nothing, and then the FSA became the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

In 2014 I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the FCA asking what action they were taking on my report. Unbelievably their reply to me was supplied to them by HSBC, and was totally untrue. They had therefore colluded with HSBC to provide a false reply in response to a statutory request for information.

I therefore made a complaint to the Complaints Commissioner (CC) who happens to be Antony Townsend. He left the SRA in 2014 and was now the Complaints Commissioner, responsible for complaints against the FCA.

2015 – in December 2015 I finally received the Complaints Commissioners final report. However, before sending me his final report he sent me a preliminary report under the Maxwellisation process [when parties to a critical report are allowed to see it and make comments on it before it is made public]. The basic conclusion of the preliminary report is that the FCA should apologise to me. That’s it.

This was another cover-up and in response I replied threatened legal action. (I was not allowed to publish his first draft as he would have pulled out of the process had I done so.)

As a result of this the CC considerably changed his decision, resulting in a scathing critique of the FCA’s handling of my complaint, but falling short of accusing them of the obvious collusion with HSBC. But the FCA did agree to reopen its investigation.

Incidentally, in 2010 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) made an order against HFC Bank that they should not charge the collection fee unless they change their terms and conditions. It seems, according to Townsend’s report, that the OFT only found four cases. I have ascertained that the person at the OFT who investigated now works at HSBC.

I had already expressed my concerns that Antony Townsend should be investigating an apparent cover-up by the FCA in a matter that had been covered up during his time at the SRA. It has only just occurred to me that he was there at the time they found no evidence of Restons involvement in the fraud.

Townsend had assured me that he had no dealing with my complaints to the SRA. But I’m afraid I simply don’t believe that. The scale of the fraud is enormous (£280m+) and if my complaint had been dealt with properly the fallout would have wiped out the Solicitors Compensation Fund, where wronged citizens can obtain redress if solicitors have behave improperly, and their professional insurance indemnity doesn’t cover it.  Townsend deals with this in his decision…

2016 – As a result of the CC’s report, received in December 2015 the FCA agreed to reopen their investigation which they admitted had not been satisfactory. The first thing they did, in January 2016 was to appoint Ruth Kelly (an ex MP that had to resign for fiddling her expenses), straight from HSBC, and Baroness Hogg, straight from John Lewis.

By the end of 2016 there has still been no satisfactory progress, despite the CC having assured me that the FCA were still dealing with it. I was also dealing, again, with the SRA, and had a telephone conference with them in December. They told me that both firms of solicitors had credited the illegal charges back to accounts in 2009. [After previously not having found any evidence in Restons case]. It occurred to me that if that had been the case there would be a number of accounts that were put into credit. I therefore wrote an email to the SRA and copied in the FCA. It stated that there must have been some accounts put in credit, and could I see the evidence of the cheques that were sent to customers?

2017 – within 3 weeks of that email, having done nothing for 5 years, the FCA suddenly announced that HSBC had voluntarily agreed to repay £4m redress to 6,700 customers. It has always been my case that that must be how many were put in credit at the time of the reversal of the charges, but did not take account of the hundreds of thousands who had paid the charge previously, or were still paying the charge but had a balance outstanding.

Since I knew the true figure to be much higher I requested a meeting with the FCA  and presented them with my evidence in February 2017.

2019 – Nothing further happened for two years, despite reassurances from the CC that FCA were still investigating, but that it was a complex matter. It is not a complex matter by any stretch of the imagination, it is a very simple case of fraud. The problem for them seemed to be the evidence.

In July 2019 the FCA announced they had further extended their redress scheme to include a further 18,500 HSBC customers they appear to have found. Apparently, HSBC’s position is that they no longer have any records, but they clearly have names and addresses to write to people. I estimate at least 5-600,000 people were affected with in excess of £100m to be repaid by HSBC.

However, if the truth were to come out, it would expose Antony Townsend and the SRA in the cover-up. Whether he was involved or was aware is irrelevant, the buck stops with him. I had naively assumed he was my ally, but I guess the FCA can take a bit of a verbal bashing provided they still protect HSBC. The regulators are covering each others’ backs.

This is presumably why the FCA refuse to look at my public domain information –

And why Andrew Bailey appeared to mock my evidence and imply wrongdoing on my part at the FCA Annual Public Meeting on 17 July. For the record, I received, anonymously and unsolicited, millions of County Court Judgment records for the period 2004-8. It is valuable data and I could have traded it and made a lot of money. I didn’t, I analysed it to show the extent of the fraud, as the FCA should be doing. They are laughing at me.