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THE BOLLOCKS OF OLD BAILEY

I don’t often disagree with highly-regarded pensions expert Henry Tapper.  Too much respect and awe.  But his recent blog: “The Balls of Old Bailey” (about Andrew Bailey) merits a polite argument.  It has made me cross – not cross with Henry, per se.  But cross with the failure of Britain’s culture, government, regulation and legal system to address justice justly (or at all).

Henry has questioned the point of revisiting the balls-up made by former FCA CEO Andrew Bailey and has suggested that “we need to move on”.

The point of examining Bailey’s sickening catalogue of balls-ups is that we must make sure it never happens again.  Part of that mission is to follow the example of the criminal justice system: we don’t give convicted criminals a jolly good talking to – or even a good bollocking.  We take away their liberty and put them in prison.  This is called a “deterrent”. 

What did Old Bailey do that was so bad?  The answer is, indeed, a long list – starting with British Steel, Toby Whittaker’s Park First and Neil Woodford’s Fund, and moving on to London Capital & Finance and a long list of other mini-bond scams – including the Blackmore Bond.  Bailey should have stopped that entire horrific catalogue of investment fraud if he’d been doing his job properly.  He could – and should – have prevented hundreds of thousands of victims from losing their life savings and pensions in all of those investment scams.

The advantage to be had from putting the bollocks – and preferably the head – of Bailey on the block is to send out a warning to future FCA bosses.  They all need to understand that they are public servants, and that with huge salaries come huge responsibilities.   Current overpaid bosses Nikhil Rathi, Christopher Woolard and Charles Randall must be reminded that running the FCA is a serious public duty – and not just an easy stepping stone to an even bigger and better job (however badly they fail consumers).

Bailey’s numerous failures were rewarded with an eye-watering salary followed by promotion to governor of the Bank of England.

But Bailey’s balls-up is by no means unique.  He’s in good company with a whole raft of over-paid public servants who have betrayed the public:

  • Post Office boss Paula Vennells was awarded a CBE for falsely prosecuting hundreds of innocent Post Office subpostmasters for fraud – even though she knew full well they were innocent.  In arguably the biggest scandal of corruption and injustice in British history, Vennells oversaw the wrongful conviction and sometimes imprisonment of 700 victims.  Many of these people were financially ruined, lost their homes and committed suicide.  One pregnant woman was sent to jail, and many marriages and families were destroyed. 
  • Former HMRC boss Dave Hartnett was caught arranging “sweetheart” deals with tax evaders such as Goldman Sax and Vodaphone.  And now he’s “got no shame” (according to Margaret Hodge) in taking up another over-paid job with Deloittes. 
  • Former HMRC boss Lin Homer was rewarded for her vast catalogue of disasters and failures with another huge salary and a £2.2m pension
Paula Vennells (left), Dave Hartnett (middle), Lin Homer (right)
Paula Vennells (left), Dave Hartnett (middle), Lin Homer (right)

But to revert to the failings of Andrew Bailey, Henry has suggested that we need to “move on”.  However, those who have lost their life savings and pensions because of the FCA’s defects will have great difficulty putting their losses and harrowing ordeals behind them.  Living in abject poverty won’t help them forget.  They will certainly never forgive the fact that Andrew Bailey could have prevented them becoming victims of investment scams such as mini bonds, Store First, Park First, the Woodford Fund and Blackmore Global etc.

Henry’s blog concludes that Andrew Bailey, as Governor of the Bank of England, has a great deal on his plate: cost of living crisis, looming recession and Brexit.  But does anybody seriously think that such a negligent, lazy, incompetent person is capable of dealing with that lot – when he couldn’t even listen to frantic whistleblowers such as Paul Carlier, Mark Taber and Brev at Bond Review who were offering to do his job for him?

In an entirely different blog, however, Henry talks about the sad case of MP Neil Parish:

This silly twerp got caught looking at lewd images on his mobile in the House of Commons.  His excuse was that he thought porn was spelled “tractor”.  Parish has now resigned and his political career is almost certainly over.  His wife might also be quite cross.  He probably won’t be rewarded with a promotion, a CBE or any kind of public “moving on”.

Tractor girl

What Parish did was foolish.  But he didn’t cost thousands of people their pensions and life savings; he didn’t ruin hundreds of subpostmasters’ lives and send some of them to prison or to their deaths; he didn’t aid and abet hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of tax evasion; he didn’t overcharge millions of taxpayers or lose their records.  

Parish embarrassed himself and was caught doing something unbelievably silly – that hurt nobody except himself (and his own family).  But the price he will pay for this will be crippling and may have ruined his life.  Meanwhile, Bailey, Vennells, Hartnet and Homer have evaded any kind of sanction and gone on to glittering success, awards and eye-watering pensions.

Move on?  Anybody?

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1 thought on “THE BOLLOCKS OF OLD BAILEY”

  1. I tend to agree with Henry’s suggestion “we need to move on”. However it really depends on what “move on” means. It will mean different things to different people.

    Henry says: “The energies of MPs need to be focussed on getting the restitution to steelworkers fully and in a timely way.” and I agree to a point. I don’t fully understand why Henry is only “focussed” on restitution for steelworkers when for over a decade now, hundreds (if not thousands) of other innocent victims of pension scams also deserve “restitution” and the lying, thieving bar-stewards that half-inched those pensions need to be made accountable – all of them – but the majority are still enjoying their ill gotten gains, while victims lick their wounds in silence and face retirement with a significantly reduced standard of living!

    In my opinion, the energies of those who claim to speak out for victims should aim their firepower at the perpetrators and not just the easy targets like Bailey. It is very easy to get headline grabbing stories from Bailey bashing but the real perpetrators of scams rarely get called out. They are rarely named and shamed nor are they made to answer for their nefarious actions. Few are willing to take them head on.

    In addition to the individual architects of the scams, big insurance companies participated in the scams and in several jurisdictions (Malta being the jurisdiction of choice), a number of QROPS facilitated the scams. The overt theft of victim’s pensions could not have been possible without negligent QROPS ignoring their duty of care and their regulators turning a blind eye to it. Yet these players too, are rarely called out by those claiming to speak out for victims. Instead, Bailey bashing is the favourite pastime along with the less frequent Action Fraud bashing. These targets don’t fight back and they make great headlines for journalists, bloggers and politicians, selfishly seeking to enhance their own profile in today’s media driven PR culture! No one cares about the forgotten victims!

    There are just two people that actually call out the perpetrators of scams – Angie is one and David Marchant ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Marchant_(journalist) ) is the other. David does a very good job at investigative journalism and writes detailed, factual reports on his blog. Unfortunately he charges an arm and a leg. I paid for one month, years ago when I was researching the thieving bar-stewards that took my pension.

    Other journalists rarely call out the scammers. I did participate in one BBC story back in 2018 and that journalist did name the architects of the scam although he didn’t use the word scam, nor fraud but he went further than most journalists.

    Angie has for years taken scammers head on but I feel even she has now backed off somewhat. Her publications are rare and she appears to have fallen into the Bailey bashing camp. One of the actors in scams of the past decade appears to have changed his name to XXXX in all her past blogs as a result, so Angie says, of legal action taken against her by XXXX. She has never really explained the details and I can find no published case report online. XXXX is actually on record in official documents (that I have copies of) as a significant participant in at least 2 major scams of the past decade, both of which are getting attention (albeit painfully sloooooowly) by the Serious Fraud Office, so it is unclear what happened to force Angie to back down and erase the truth.

    However, Angie is not the only one to be bullied by scammers. On Angie’s facebook group, victims have reported they get threatened by the two-bit lawyers who are paid by scammers with victim’s own hard earned cash! Yes, everyone wants to dip their hand in people’s half-inched pension pots! I too was threatened by the thieving bar-stewards that half-inched my pension. Back in 2016 I was documenting my scam experience on the citywire forum “scam alert” thread and in July of that year I got an email from the scammer’s two-bit, back street lawyer about my contributions to that forum. Citywire removed the topic (wimps) and banned me from the forum! It also turned out the incident exposed a data protection violation by Citywire and the whole forum went down for a couple of weeks – the lawyer and scammer had managed to obtain all the email addresses of all those who contributed to the topic!

    I also got a letter from the QROPS’ (the receiving trustee in Malta where my pension ended up) two bit lawyer because the trustee “didn’t like my attitude” and threatened to use my pension to pay their legal fees in any action against me! Seriously? There really is no shame or conscience with these blood sucking parasites!

    Perpetrators of scams and the organisations facilitating the scams, threaten legal action to anyone that speaks out. Hence, journalists and others, seeking professional kudos or political gain, cowardly stick to Bailey bashing rather than take on the real targets.

    Angie praises the “whistleblowers” but none of those cowards have publicly called out the architects of scams. We’ve also had Parliamentary Inquiries into Pension scams, that also fail to call out perpetrators and the reports produced seem to serve only as an end in themselves. The last one chaired by Stephen Timms in 2020 didn’t call out scammers and now the report seems to have been “put to bed”, job done, scams and victims can now be forgotten along with the report. What was the point of it all?

    The Transparency Task Force (“TTF”) contributed to the Inquiry and says: “The mission of the Transparency Task Force is to promote ongoing reform of the financial sector”. Similarly PSIG (Pension Scams Industry Group) who also contributed to the inquiry, spend their time publishing “codes of good practice”. This does nothing to help the forgotten victims and in my opinion will do nothing to stop future victims. Scammers will always be one step ahead and unless prosecuted will continue undeterred. It’s a low risk high gain activity with very little downside for the perpetrators – they rarely get prosecuted and get to keep the spoils. It’s money for old rope. All you need is the gift of the gab, a pool of ready made victims and the cooperation of financial institutions willing to ignore their duty of care obligation. Add to that regulator’s in Mickey Mouse jurisdictions like Malta turning a blind eye and it’s easy money all the way – a conveyer belt of pension pots. No amount of “ongoing reform” or “codes of practice” will oppose the lure of easy money – scammers will find a way round them and continue, always have and always will, until they risk either their freedom or their money by doing so! Right now they risk nothing and gain huge amounts. It’s a no brainer.

    And who takes any notice of “codes of practice” anyway? Back in 2013, the Pensions Regulator launched its Scorpion Campaign with a checklist for pension providers to use, whenever a transfer request was made by their members. The aim was to spot scams and give members an opportunity to make an informed decision before the money was irretrievably transferred. Had providers taken this seriously at the time, hundreds of victims might not have transferred their pensions into the hands of scammers. We will never know the real outcome of that campaign. The Timms inquiry never commented on the success or otherwise of that campaign in preventing scams. Hundreds, if not thousands of pensions were transferred into the hands of scammers post 2013, that’s a fact. The unanswered question is why? Was it the victim’s fault – as they are often accused – or were providers negligent in their obligation to the regulator’s requirements? I guess we’ll never really know because no one has done any real investigation … too busy Bailey bashing! Providers I have accused of ignoring the guidelines always fall back on the defence – “there was no legal obligation to follow the guidelines” and one adjudictor in a recent Financial Ombudsman complaint I assisted with argued (on behalf of the provider I might add!) the guidelines were unclear and open to interpretation! Seriously? They looked clear enough to me. Victims are definitely swimming against the tide if truth be told but who cares? There’s no support from the Bailey bashers that’s for sure!

    How many bloggers, journalists, MP’s, Parliamentary Inquiries etc., have called out the pension providers for just handing out pensions on a silver plate over the years to scammers, without any additional due diligence as required by the Scorpion campaign? There is only Angie to my knowledge.

    How many victims could have been saved financial ruin had those with a “duty of care” – on both sides of the transfer if truth be known – actually took their duty seriously?

    Many scams of the last decade also had big insurance companies dipping their hands in victim’s pension pots by selling unnecessary insurance bonds that served only to drain the pension and also gave the unqualified [mis-]advisers – who were really nothing more than an unscrupulous poorly qualified salespersons maximising their share of the spoils – an extra commission on top of the eye-watering commission they got from recommending offshore unregulated funds such as Blackmore Global that has now officially gone bust leaving hundreds with no pension.

    How many bloggers, MP’s, “whistleblowers”, and blood sucking journalists called out the insurance companies for their part in the scams? To my knowledge, only Angie.

    Is anyone doing anything other than Bailey bashing?

    Forgotten victims of pension scams over the past decade really are on their own.

    I have to agree with Henry: “… unless there is a clear advantage to be had in putting the balls of Andrew Bailey on the block, we need to move on.”

    For me, moving on means re-focussing efforts on two fronts: 1) Targetting the architects and ALL actors of scams, call them out, prosecute them, make them accountable and 2) Helping ALL victims get restitution.

    From what I can see, Angie is really the only person that has attempted both but it seems even she delights in a bit of Bailey bashing these days, which in my opinion serves no purpose.

    It is time to move on ….

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