Email today to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, cc to Andrew Bailey of the FCA.
Dear Ms Bradley
For 16 years I have campaigned for justice for an estimated 5-600k consumers who were defrauded by HSBC (HFC Bank and John Lewis Financial Services) by the imposition of illegal contingency fees added to debts, being 16.4% of the debt.
I date my 16 years from a meeting I had with HFC’s solicitor Duncan Hamilton. I was head of debt recovery at Weightmans and we met to discuss my firm continuing to act for John Lewis, as I had done previously for 20 years, now that HSBC (HFC) had purchased the account business. I was assured that Weightmans could continue to act provided we did so on the same basis as their existing solicitors Restons. When that basis was explained to me, (the addition of a 16.4% contingency fee) I told Mr Hamilton that such an arrangement was illegal.
In 2006 I referred Weightmans to the Law Society (SRA) as it was clear that they were not going to change the arrangement and they had side-lined me and sacked my team. I was immediately sacked and have not had a permanent job since.
Following a year’s investigation the SRA adjudicated that the charges were indeed contingency fees but took no action because “they only happened in a small number of cases”. When I left Weightmans in 2006 we had 70-80,000 cases. The charges were added automatically on receipt of instructions from HFC Bank. You might be interested to know that following the SRA adjudication Weightmans continued to add to the charges. Not only were the charges unlawful contingency fees, they breached the indemnity principle on costs and breached the rule that solicitors are not allowed to claim costs which cannot be said to be due.
In 2010 the OFT made an order, hidden away in a press release about abuse of charging orders, forbidding the bank from applying the charges unless and until they changed their credit agreements. At that time I estimate that since the beginning of HSBC’s involvement the total number of cases is 5-600,00.
In 2012 I reported Restons to the SRA for the practice, and you found no evidence of wrongdoing. I reported the SRA to the LSB – they confirmed that you had conducted a proper inquiry.
In 2012 I also reported HSBC to the FSA. They took no action. I then chased up the FCA and their lamentable dealing with the case was dealt with in a decision by the Complaints Commissioner. As a consequence of this the FCA agreed to reopen their investigation and in January 2017 announced that HSBC had “voluntarily” agreed redress to 6,700 customers of £4m.
Knowing this to be far from the true figure I met with the FCA in February 2017 and presented the county court judgment data, linked above.
This month the FCA announced that HSBC had widened their redress scheme to include a further 18,500 customers. HSBC apparently no longer have complete records. The FCA tell me they have cross-checked my information with the Ministry of Justice, which cannot be the case. It appears that I have more evidence than HSBC, the MoJ and FCA combined. It appears that the FCA are refusing to look at my data because the cannot “authenticate” its source. It is public domain information, easily checked.
Therefore, the only other source of evidence of the true scale of the fraud (that is what is was) is from Weightmans and Restons. On this occasion I expect the SRA to undertake a full and thorough investigation of the matter, and to involve me in the process, unlike previously when I have been completely ignored. I estimate that at least £100m is due for repayment.
I put all my evidence and correspondence in the public domain, and will do so with any reply I received to this email. I have also copied in Andrew Bailey, CEO of the FCA.
I look forward to hearing from you.