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Weekend storms take down HBOS IT systems

The severe storms that swept across the UK late Friday caused a power failure at a HBOS data centre in Yorkshire that knocked out the high street bank's cash machines, branches and online banking serv...

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Lack of Governance in UK Financial Services sector

This is example is indicative of the state of financial services governance in the UK:

In 2000, Egg (internet-based credit card company), suffered a major data loss and could only recover account records by cobbling together messages from their CRM system. As a customer at the time, I challenged the accuracy of my account statement and demanded to see my full customer account record. They refused to provide anything other than the CRM record, so I told them that I would be happy to pay my account just as soon as they amended their account records to reflect an accurate balance.

Egg held out for two years, during which I tried to gain access to my records by an appeal to the FSA, the UK's financial services regulator. They refused my appeal on the basis of the records belonging to Egg, not the customer. I further initiated the involvement of the UK's Financial Services Ombudsman, who is empowered to investigate such matters. In order to halt the Ombudsman's investigation, Egg took me to court. Despite the Banking Code stipulating that companies should not proceed with litigation until an Ombudsman's investigation was complete, Egg used litigation to prevent an Ombudsman's investigation, despite a direct appeal from the Ombudsman.

We went to court (which was notable, the judge being on very friendly, first-name terms with Egg's lawyer, and extremely rude and aggressive towards me). Despite having filed their case on the basis of a balance that Egg had claimed was correct for two years, the first thing the judge did was allow Egg to amend their balance to that which was claimed by me. In effect, I was now in court over an action by Egg for an agreed amount! The judge then awarded £22,000 of costs to Egg. At the costs hearing, the judge very aggressively addressed a note-taking journalist directly, asking why the newspaper thought there was a worthwhile story. Within 24 hours the newspaper pulled the story on the grounds that Egg had threatened to sue them and they couldn't afford a long and expensive court case with a major source of advertising revenue.

My experience taught me that corruption within the UK is systemic and pervades every aspect of the financial services sector, the regulator and the judiciary. I wrote publicly at the time, that if my experience was typical, there was a significant public risk, if such practices were tolerated elsewhere in the system. It doesn't take much of a leap to understand that the FSA's primary mandate 'to preserve confidence in the UK financial services sector' ultimately works against the public interest.


Comments: (2)

John Dring
John Dring - Intel Network Services - Swindon 19 November, 2009, 08:38Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Wow.  Easy to see how sticking to your guns can escalate and land you in this bother.  The law process truly is an ass sometimes (oftentimes?), and stories like this do nothing to help that image.  I hope you can salvage some losses by packaging and selling this experience in some way to as many publications as will take it.  I simply don't see that if the original disputed amount was amended to your proposed number how the award of costs is valid.

As always, there's more to these cases but at face value it seems wrong.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 November, 2009, 09:32Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks for your supportive words. Sadly, from the perspective of any kind of faith in the system, there is no more to it than that. Clear connivance between all parties to hush-up the data loss, deny access to records, and the use the cost of the legal system as a protection mechanism.

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