HSBC fraud, Paul Lewis and the BBC

Yesterday, 5 June BBC Radio 4 Money Box programme ran an article about the repayments which HSBC has been making recently to customers. These repayments are a direct result of my campaign, and anyone who knows the details will know that at the heart of the fraud HSBC and its subsidiaries HFC Bank, First Direct, John Lewis Financial Services and M&S Bank, were adding 16.5% to debts in order to pay for legal costs. This is illegal and fraudulent. I have been campaigning against the charges since 2003, when I first told the solicitor of HFC Bank that the charges were illegal.

There has been much speculation in the press about what the payments are for, despite the fact that all the media reported the two tranches of payments HSBC made in 2017  and 2019. Some payments are for £25 or £50 and HSBC has said they are for badly worded letters. I admit, I do not know what that is about but I suspect it is cases where the 16.5% charge was added but never paid. Some payments are for substantially more, and it can be seen from this article in the Times, that the charges added to his debt amount to 16.5% of the debt.

For many years Paul Lewis, who presents Money Box, has shown in interest in my campaign and twice I have appeared on his show. He has been generally helpful if somewhat guarded in his reporting. He had an opportunity to interview HSBC director and Chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead, but never brought the subject up. I was amazed therefore to hear that in yesterday’s show he feigned total ignorance of what the payments were for. He had spoken to HSBC and ascertained that they had set aside £223m for the repayments. I have always said the recompense that should be paid amounted to £200m+. Paul Lewis and I had recently exchanged private messages on Twitter about the matter, and I pointed out to him about the 16.5% in the Times article.

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis wrote a poor article in the press about the payments and Paul Lewis tweeted about it, saying that the charges were to do with my campaign. Paul Lewis has subsequently deleted this tweet. 


My calculations were based on the charges added between 2003 – 2009. In the programme Paul Lewis said the repayments related to charges added 2010-2019. In 2010 the Office of Fair Trading made an order against HFC Bank forbidding them from adding the charges. And the bank has told the FCA and all the media that they stopped adding the charges in 2009. If the information given by Lewis (presumably straight from HSBC) is accurate, then the total recompense that should be paid is nearer £500m.

Listen to the broadcast here.

The frightening thing here is that Paul Lewis knows exactly what these payments are for (the larger ones). He even wrote an article about them in the Radio Times in 2019:
The entry in HSBC’s 2020 accounts which shows the ringfenced amount clearly states that the redress is for historical collections and recoveries practices in the UK. I think there can be little doubt what it refers to:
A further entry in HSBC’s 2020 accounts confirms an FCA investigation into collections and recoveries operations in the UK. Strange that Paul Lewis didn’t make the connection with my blowing the whistle on HSBC collections and recoveries operations:
The whole British establishment has bent over backwards to protect HSBC from a major scandal about this fraud. I recently made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Financial Conduct Authority, who refused to give me any information. By drip feeding the payments, starting in 2017, a major scandal has been averted, and this is especially important now that HSBC has admitted it has ringfenced £223m.