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“In my position, as you can imagine, I’ve got a few enemies.” An anonymous tip off has contacted the DWP to suggest that Nicholas Wilson is frauding the benefits office. “They sent a letter calling me in for a compliance interview.”

The irony is that Nicholas Wilson is a whistleblower, who has been trying to expose what would be the largest bank fraud in the history of the UK, totalling over £1bn. This is made up of illegal charges imposed by HFC Bank – previously a subsidiary of HSBC, onto unsuspecting UK customer debts on high street store cards.

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Wilson was head of debt recovery for Weightmans LLP – a national solicitors firm which acted for John Lewis – for over 25 years. However, in 2003 when John Lewis sold their accounts to HFC Bank, Wilson noticed they immediately began adding “collection charges” of 16.4% to customer store cards in arrears. These charges were illegal.

Wilson spoke up, complaining to staff and colleagues and refusing to work on the HFC account. The charges were being applied to customers already in debt and hardship; a fraud by the second biggest bank on the some of the nation’s poorest, and yet for standing against this, Wilson’s boss dubbed him ‘Mr Ethical.’

By 2006, Wilson was finding the toll of his work unbearable and by now the fraud was being carried out on thousands of people. He reported it to the Law Society (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and was immediately sacked by Weightmans.


“I’ve been campaigning ever since. The SRA upheld my complaint, they said it was unlawful but they didn’t take any action and said it only happened in a small number of cases.”

The charges were overseen by 2 solicitor firms – Weightmans and Restons.

“I’ve calculated that in the year of my complaint, 2006, 2 firms between them added£44m of illegal charges in that one year. So, a small number of cases?”

When leaving Weightmans, Wilson helped some customers get their money back, but while the SRA upheld his complaint, he found HFC continued adding the illegal charges to customer cards. He now estimates the fraud to have affected between 500,000 – 600,000 UK customers with charges ranging from £500-£5000.

“The silence of the mainstream media is driving me insane actually. It really is.” Wilson relays the numerous times he has been contacted and worked with news stations, sometimes for months at a time, before the story is pulled at the last minute.

“I get spiked all the time. I get so close and then things are pulled at the last minute… the crux of the problem with me is that if this gets out it will be such a massive scandal. It’s about a billion pound fraud and it involves Dixons, Currys, PC World, B&Q, John Lewis  – all these high street stores, and potentially HSBC could lose it’s licence in America.”

Wilson points to HSBC’s advertising and funding power as a reason for the silence of media.

Earlier this year, veteran journalist Peter Oborne publicly resigned from the Telegraph precisely because the advertising power of the bank was blocking critical reporting about them, particularly during the Swiss tax evasion leaks.

At the BBC, the appointment of Rona Fairhead to the broadcaster’s Trust came as a surprise to even Conservative members in 2014. Fairhead is a Director of HSBC, receiving over £500,000 in annual pay, as well as shares in the bank worth almost the same.

The ‘world’s local bank’ is familiar in government too. In 2010, David Cameron appointed HSBC Executive Chairman Stephen Green to the House of Lords. When news of the Swiss tax evasion leaks came to the fore in 2015, questions arose of Cameron’s knowledge of the scandal. Evidence had been handed to HMRC by French authorities as early as May 2010 – months before Green’s appointment.

Cameron and his colleagues denied knowledge of the scale of the scandal. Meanwhile, Dave Hartnett, Head of Tax at HMRC in 2010, retired two years later and took a role with HSBC on a committee advising the bank on how to ‘maintain the best possible standards’.

2010 was also the the year the Office of Fair Trading gave a new ruling that HFC’s charges on store cards were illegal – finally bringing them to an end, something Cameron would have been made aware of.

The revolving door has been crucial to the continued cover up of these charges. Wilson has taken his complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority who’s Complaints Commissioner Anthony Townsend, was Chief Commissioner of the law society at the time of Wilson’s initial complaint in 2003, where the fraud was downplayed and went on unabated and unpunished.

When Wilson chased the FCA for an answer on the action being taken he received a response which demonstrated the collusion between the regulators and the banks.

Joel Benjamin, a financial researcher,  had attended a HSBC AGM with the intent of following up Wilson’s complaint. After writing to the bank, Benjamin’s response mirrored that of Wilson’s from the FCA:

“The reply [Joel] received from HSBC and the reply I received from the FCA was exactly the same. Two paragraphs, exactly the same wording, exactly the same paragraph, punctuation and everything. So I caught them out. I discovered that they’d colluded.”

The letter revealed that the regulator checked with the bank for the appropriate response rather than investigating and regulating independently. Both were forced to admit the collusion at a grilling by the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year and apologised though no action was sought:

“I’m not interested in an apology. I’m interested in ordering HSBC to repay a billion pounds to half a million people.”

The toll of the campaigning work and the shunning of his story by colleagues, authorities and the media have been at great expense to Wilson’s health and wellbeing. Having given up a comfortable life to expose this crime, he has lost his job, almost lost his house, battled illness and given up his chances of working again. He said on his website “My conclusion is do not blow the whistle in the UK, unless it is life or death.”

Still, Wilson’s evidence and allegations are dangerous. They not only implicate the bank itself, or the many high street stores, but the figures involved in the cover up which spread across solicitors and accountants, regulators, media and the Prime Minister himself.

This is a crime that could reveal the reliance of the bloated financial sector on fraud and criminal activity, which for HSBC alone now ranges from the fixing of trillion dollar markets, funding of terrorism, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, to the administration of illegal and made up surcharges on UK accounts already in debt.

This along with the cover up may finally reveal to the public the ‘rotten architechture’ of the banks and finance centres, as John Pilger described the glimpse of truth we experienced in 2008, before the controlled narrative of austerity took hold and our gaze was shifted by the same organisations who seem to be protecting HSBC now.

You can visit Nicholas Wilson’s site here. 

Look out for the Real Media video report on this case in 2016.

Tomorrow: Stripping Small Business, Boosting Big Banks: How RBS Balanced its Books on SMEs and Got Away With It

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Some sad news from Transition Free Press, but important messages about the media we want. Best of luck to the brilliant people at TFP. Am sure we’ll see them throughout the Real Media project.

Transition Free Press

1467299_627314473976940_658843296_nDear Readers and Supporters of Transition Free Press,

I am sorry to inform you that our innovative grassroots newspaper will not be published this year. We were hoping to relaunch this Spring with a bright new expanded edition but have been unable to raise sufficient funds to pay for our core costs.

For the past three years we have produced seven issues, all of which have documented the actions, skills and intelligence of Transition and affiliated progressive movements. Our purpose was to reflect the cultural shift many of us are involved in and to act as a communications tool for Initiatives and groups. Thanks to over 150 contributors, over 100 distributors, 50 advertisers and a collective editorial team, over 70,000 papers have appeared all over the UK – in shops, in cafes, universities and libraries, waiting rooms and market stalls. At public events and in private moments.

We have never…

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Edge Fund

(click CC to watch film with subtitles).

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Every year over sixty-four billion pounds is given to registered charities in the UK. The charity sector has become big business, and incredibly there are now over 1,000 charities with an annual income of over £10 million a year. And as competition for money gets tougher, the larger groups continue to take a larger piece of the pie.

Smaller groups struggle to get heard over the big brand charity names, but there’s good reason why they’re worth backing.

The government lures groups to register as charities with tempting benefits such as claiming tax back on donations. But once you’ve become a registered charity you’re restricted by Charity Commission rules, which are being tightened all the time to prevent groups seeking real change. Most larger charities take government and corporate money making them puppets of the very systems that create inequality and…

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From Boycott Workfare:

The government fears workfare could “collapse”. We want to make it do just that. On 4-12 October, take part in the week of action against workfare. The list of events is growing…. read on to find one near you, and if you can’t find one, why not plan your own? We can help – get in touch! There’ll be mass online actions on Mon-Fri of the week of action too. Get involved and help show workfare profiteers and exploiters “If you exploit us we will shut you down!”

See what actions are happening and find out more here.

Image: Boycott Wokrfare

Image: Boycott Workfare

scotland

Excuse us…

kamsandhu —  August 28, 2014 — Leave a comment

We are dealing with a technical issue. Will be back as soon as possible! 

Pride's Purge

(sadly not satire – it’s the UK today)

There are now numerous cases of terminally sick cancer patients being told by the DWP they are unable to receive sickness benefit because they are supposedly ‘fit for work’.

The latest victim of the coalition government’s slashing of help and support for the sick, disabled and dying was Chris Smith, a plumber from Leicester with terminal cancer who died last month:

Fit for work?

Help for the sick and disabled in the UK has now effectively disappeared and the welfare state – in England and Wales at least – has already gone.

Here’s the proof that sick people – even cancer patients – are now regarded as malingerers:

Thousands of Cancer Patients Wait For Six Months or More For Disability Benefits

Cancer patients to lose up to £94 a week

DWP blames cancer patient for her illness

Mother’s plea for son who lost benefits…

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And add (thanks to creatorsnotconsumers for this knowledge) “It was Harper who steered the immigration bill through parliament which set the fine at £20,000. Beyond parody or satire…
http://www.freemovement.org.uk/mark-harpers-resignation/

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the UK today)

According to the UK government’s own web page – the fine for employing an illegal migrant worker is £20,000.

Tory minister Mark Harper employed a cleaner – Isabella Acevedo – who was dragged from her daughter’s wedding ceremony and deported last week when it was revealed she had embarrassed Harper by not having all her valid documents.

For some unexplained reason, however, Harper himself – who was recently given a new ministerial job by Cameron – has not been fined £20,000.

An employer won’t have to pay the fine if he or she can show a valid reason for employing an illegal migrant worker – however being unaware of the fact is not considered to be a valid reason.

So what exactly is Harper’s “valid reason” for not being fined?

That he’s a government minister and a good friend of Cameron?

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Of course – irony of ironies –…

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Standby: Maintenance

kamsandhu —  July 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

Excuse us while we undertake some maintenance from 21/07 – 24/07. We will be back shortly. 
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Vox Political

This is from Tom Watson MP. If he’s right, it’s vitally important that you read the following and act on it:

Last Thursday there was a curious announcement in the Chamber of the House of Commons. At the session to announce future business, Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley said this:

“Monday 14th July — consideration of a Bill, followed by a motion to approve the first report from the Committee on Standards on the respect policy”

If you look on Parliament’s web site tonight, you will not see the name, nor the text of the Bill to be considered.

None of your elected backbench MPs have been told what Bill is to be debated on Monday. It’s Wednesday evening. Tomorrow, MPs are on a ‘one line whip’ ie they can return to their constituencies this evening.

Imagine how outrageous it would be, if tomorrow, the government were to announce emergency…

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