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THE BANKS, THE LAW & THE COURTS

 

Corrupt judges, abuse of the legal system and manipulation of the courts

Author William May, October 2023

After a victim of serious banking misconduct and fraud has been blocked by their bank, they may take their complaint to the police, which will refuse to investigate or direct them to Action Fraud, whose failure over economic crime has become notorious. Next, they may write to the financial and legal regulators but they too will not uphold their complaint. Finally, if they consult their MP, they will eventually receive a reply, usually from a Treasury minister, which is intended to make them go round in circles. 


So, once all their available options have been exhausted in a process which is designed to ensure that their complaint does not progress, a very few victims may resort to legal action against their bank, or more likely, find themselves in court contesting an action by their bank, which they accuse of serious wrongdoing. However, we have uncovered widespread serious wrongdoing by certain judges, who also abuse the court system and extensive misconduct by heavyweight lawyers acting for the banks. As a result, the bank victims face insurmountable barriers in court, which mean that they can never win. This represents the final insult for them.


The first section of this report (pages 3-5) addresses the major issues raised by this corruption and goes to the heart of what we want for our country. The second part (pages 6-8) describes more than twenty different types of judicial misconduct and abuse of the court system, which we have identified. The third element (pages 9-16) focuses on one leading law firm’s representation of major clients including Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and the Post Office. It stands accused of widespread manipulation of the legal system. However, this example of egregious misconduct is not an isolated one since numerous other law firms have acted improperly in defending the frequently criminal conduct of banks. The final section (pages 17-21) describes the deliberate failure by the legal regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority to investigate and adequately prosecute solicitors, who have acted for the banks. 


The judicial wrongdoing, which we are describing, cannot be dismissed as a few isolated instances. Our evidence suggests that this has become systemic and the obvious concerns are that it has continued to the present day and the authorities have consistently ignored it. The disregard for correct application of the law and the proper administration of justice are a matter of deep shame for our country. 


The serious allegations made in this report can be fully substantiated with witness evidence from numerous cases. We shall also provide a list of corrupt judges to the relevant authorities, with a request for them to investigate and take immediate action.
 

Summary

 

  • The banks have extensively corrupted the courts and the proper administration of justice. Given that they have captured government and every other arm of state, this should surprise no-one.                                                                                                

  • There is one law for the banks and another for everyone else, which is entirely improper.                                                                                            

  • There has been widespread serious misconduct by a significant number of judges, who have acted with impunity and used the court system against bank victims.    
                                          

  • The Crown is involved because the courts operate in its name. 
                                                                   

  • There has been conspicuous failure by the regulators. The Judicial Conduct Investigation Office (JCIO) has failed to address extensive misconduct by certain judges, while the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has failed to investigate or adequately prosecute solicitors, who have acted for banks and been accused of serious misconduct. These failings have been deliberate, rather than accidental.          
                                                                            

  • The extensive corrupt practice of these judges and their abuse of the court system represents one of the greatest ever challenges to the integrity of the British judicial system. The civil courts have become unsafe places for bank victims.
     

1. THE MAJOR ISSUES

 

In his maiden speech on becoming Lord Chancellor in May, the Minister of Justice, Rt. Hon Alex Chalk MP said that he cared “deeply about our justice system”, stressing that the rule of law, independence of judiciary, access to justice and the right to a fair trial were “not quaint or somehow obscure academic notions” but “essential building blocks of a safe, decent and prosperous society.” Yet, the widespread corruption and malpractice, which has taken place in our courts and not been checked, has violated the most fundamental principles of British justice. It has reached a point where bank victims cannot remotely trust the courts.

Equality of all before the law
In October 2018, the President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale declared: “Equality before the law is a fundamental principle of the rule of law as we know it. Everyone is subject to the same laws, no matter who they are, and is treated equally by the courts.”


This is a pre-eminent principle of British justice but sadly, it is far removed from the present position regarding the banks, which enjoy complete protection under the law. Unacceptably, we have one law for the banks and another for everyone else. Ministers have comprehensively shielded the banks, while the financial and legal regulators have refused to act correctly over their criminality. Every branch of the police has refused to investigate their wrongdoing and finally, if the case goes to court, the banks and their lawyers have abused due legal process and can enlist the support of “go-to” judges to rule in their favour. 

The integrity and independence of the Judiciary 
The judiciary represents a vital component of our unwritten constitution. It must act with integrity and its independence is designed to be a vital check on unjust government. However, systemic judicial misconduct and abuse of the court system, where judges act directly or indirectly in conjunction with the bank’s lawyers, have led to the complete breakdown of trust.


At the time of their appointment, a judge swears the judicial oath: “I, [name] do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign [King Charles the Third] in the office of [judge] and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will.” Their responsibility is to see that everyone in court is treated equally and that verdicts, judgments and sentences are carried out in accordance with the law.


However, cases which include criminal wrongdoing by banks and / or their professional agents have invariably been wrongly treated as civil. Civil hearings take place behind closed doors and are presided over by a judge sitting on their own. They are conducted well away from the public gaze and are ideal forums for a judge, if they so decide, to conduct themselves and court proceedings entirely as they wish and disregard their judicial oaths. The press rarely attends and then, only for major cases. As a result, the civil courts in the UK have become unsafe places for bank victims.


As with other forms of high-level oversight, the regulation of judicial misconduct by the Judicial Conduct Investigation Office (JCIO) is largely non-existent.


The courts are supposed to operate independently of Government but there are indications that they have not done so, and the legal and judicial systems have been manipulated to advantage by Government and higher authority. 

Access to justice


A bank victim already faces gross inequality of arms with the banks monopolising the best available legal talent on their panels. Taking a case to court is prodigiously expensive, especially for victims whose financial resources have already been severely depleted as a result of serious banking misconduct and fraud. To worsen the imbalance however, the Government abolished legal aid for businesses in 2012 and four years later, increased court fees by 600%. The mountain which bank victims have had to climb therefore was already very steep but widespread corrupt practice in court has ensured that banks always win. There is no point in having adequate access to justice, if when you arrive in court, the judicial system has been seriously corrupted.

Violation of property rights
As long ago as 1354, the Liberty of the Subject provided that “no man of what estate or condition shall be put out of land or tenement, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor put to death without being brought in answer by due process of the law.”


More recently in 1953, Protocol 1 to Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) specified that everyone is “entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”
Both of these important principles have been seriously undermined by what has been taking place in British courts.

The right to a fair trial
From as far back as Magna Carta 1215 to the fundamental human right of the right to a fair trial is suppose to be protected under Article 6 of ECHR, which states that every citizen is “entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law”. However, this right has been comprehensively violated by the actions of certain judges and lawyers acting for the banks. 
 

The involvement of the Crown
All jurisdiction is exercised in the name of the Sovereign and judges derive their authority from them. The courts operate as His Majesty’s Courts and display the Royal Coat of Arms. The foremost courts in the UK are the Royal Courts of Justice. Judges are appointed by the King on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor and senior advocates are termed KCs (King’s Counsel). Other terms used include Crown Courts and the Crown Prosecution Service. All court orders bear the seal of His Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS). It follows therefore that the King has a direct interest in the proper conduct and administration of the courts. 

The failure of the authorities
Disputes between banks and their customers might normally be regarded as civil matters. However, many cases have involved varying types of criminal wrongdoing by banks, their officers and professional agents. Victims have faced many hurdles in this respect. Firstly, the barrier to proving criminal conduct in court is high. Regulators such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have ignored allegations of criminality by banks and refused to accept such evidence, while the police throughout the UK has consistently pretended that all such matters are civil and refused to conduct a criminal investigation. Hence, victims have been deliberately channelled into the civil courts, where widespread serious wrongdoing has taken place.


Three senior figures are responsible for oversight of the law and the courts in the UK. The Lord Chief Justice is the head of the judiciary and responsible for the conduct of the courts in England & Wales, while the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, who also holds the title of Lord Chancellor, are members of and appointed by the prevailing government. The latter oversees an entire Government department, the Ministry of Justice. However, none of these officials in high authority have taken action to prevent the judicial wrongdoing we describe.

The importance of trust
The courts in the United Kingdom operate in the name of the Crown. They are supposed to be independent, fair and impartial. However, we have identified numerous instances of judicial wrongdoing and abuse of court process, which should concern every citizen of our country.


Ordinary individuals are expected to respect the courts and, for example, bow to the presiding judge at the start and end of proceedings. Why should they do so, when certain of the judges who conduct those proceedings and have abused the court system cannot be trusted ?
 

2. JUDICIAL CORRUPTION & ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

 

This section describes some of the many ways in which our courts and judicial system have been extensively corrupted. The picture it paints is one of lawlessness, where legal process can be manipulated and abused by powerful law firms acting for the banks. A significant number of judges have been responsible for widespread misconduct, which either involves a judge acting improperly in court on their own and / or taking advantage of the court system to compound the injustice against the bank victim. These judges remain a law unto themselves and regard themselves as untouchable because of their ultimate authority. 

We have identified the following types of judicial misconduct, which can be fully evidenced:
 

Serious misconduct by certain judges

 

  • Cases, which include criminal wrongdoing, wrongly treated as civil: The widespread willingness of judges to hear cases, which include clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing by banks and their professional agents and treat them as civil, rather than the criminal proceedings, which they should be.        
                            

  • Blatant, unwarranted and repeated instances of bias shown by certain judges in favour of banks.    
                                               

  • Judges presiding over cases, despite having serious conflicts of interest, notably having acted extensively for banks. Judges and bank barristers coming from the same chambers. Refusal of judges to step down, even when their conflicts of interest have been pointed out to them.
     

  • Conflicts of interest come in varying degrees but where a judge presides over a case knowing that they are flagrantly conflicted, this is straight-forwardly corrupt and no other term or euphemism should be used.
    .

  • Actual or suspected connivance between certain judges and bank barristers: secret discussion of cases not in open court; affording prior access to bank barristers in court.            
     

  • Refusal of judges to hear defendants’ evidence: ignoring the principle of “audi alteram partem” or let the other side be heard. Cases have included the refusal of evidence by Police, Crown Prosecution Service, solicitors and courts, as well as the judge and the refusal to hear expert evidence.
     

  • Contravention of Judicial Oath including failure of the judge to take appropriate action when the police oath, solicitors’ code of conduct or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), especially Article 1 (protocol 1) and Article 6, have been ignored or violated.                             
               

  • Surprising court verdicts - Some verdicts have been sufficiently controversial as to suggest that they have been rigged.


Serious misconduct by certain judges, which has required the assistance of the court system        

 

  • Substitution at last moment of judges, who are guaranteed to rule in the bank’s favour. This has included the introduction of judges from other parts of the UK into the London judiciary, even when London-based judges are available to sit. “Guns for hire” judges engaged to specifically hear and deal with a particular targeted claim (suspected to be at the request of Government in the “national Interest”) and then leave again.             
                               

  • Ensuring cases are moved to a different court, where “go-to” judges can be assured of ruling in the bank’s favour.                                         

  • Judge in lower court intercepted and dismissed a permission given by the High Court.            
                                       

  • Conducting secret hearings, which may not even be listed, to ensure that the defendants are not present in court (trials in absentia).                                                
     

  • Holding private hearings in a judge’s chambers to prevent the discussions getting onto the official court record. Numerous secret meetings in court hearing rooms and planning processes.      
                                          

  • Separation of hearings to benefit banks: The HBoS Reading trial was divided into two parts, with the principal fraudsters prosecuted in a trial which finished in February 2017. However, a partner of the Bristol-based solicitors, Burges Salmon, a firm which had long acted for Lloyds Banking Group, was tried separately and acquitted in November that year. This looks to have been arranged.
                              

  • Manipulation of the timing of verdicts of court cases to benefit banks. In one high-profile case, the judge did not deliver his ruling for two years, during which time the claimant, who was funded by Lloyds Banking Group, legally assaulted and bankrupted the victim.                                                  
     

  • Issuing court orders, which are unsealed or do not bear the appropriate court seal. The issuance of court orders, when no hearing has taken place. Failure to keep court records on file.            
                                           

  • Repeatedly pricing bank victims out of justice by making adverse cost awards. This means that either directly or indirectly, the judge and the bank’s barristers are acting together towards the same objective.

Judicial failure, whether deliberate or accidental                  

         

  • Allowing victims to become wrongfully bankrupted; failure of judges to question misconduct or abuse of the Insolvency Service. 
     

  • Cases have included Insolvency Service staff being replaced with an insolvency practitioner to falsify and facilitate fraudulent bankruptcy. Judge naming individuals or representatives in general terms as having committed frauds or as having let down victim, yet still permitting bankruptcy or unlawful conviction.
     

  • Failure of judges to question misconduct by the Land Registry and the correct registration of property titles.                                        

  • Failure of judge to restrict the duration of the disclosure process: This has been especially egregious with group actions and major cases, where the bank or public institution and its lawyers have set out to exhaust the victims’ financial resources. The disclosure process has been prolonged for many years and the presiding judge has not stepped in to prevent it. This has been a favoured tactic of heavyweight law firms such as Herbert Smith Freehills, which has acted for Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds and the Post Office. In the cases of the RBS shareholders’ action and Bates vs. the Post Office, this compelled the two groups of claimants to mediate on weak terms.
                                

  • Fraud upon the court not questioned by the judge.              
                 

  • Failure of judge to detect perjury by bank barristers.        
                   

  • Failure of judge to spot or take sufficient action with respect to allegations and extensive evidence of signature forgery by bank officers and other professionals.              
                         

  • Failure of judge to spot forged or invalid legal documentation submitted to court. Cases have included the absence of paperwork prior to hearings / trial for checking by victims, which enabled forgeries and fabricated documents to pass through the courts. Judge refusing to stall court process by permitting time required to read fake documents, which had been handed to victim as they entered court.
                                               

  • Failure of judge to question the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in court agreements to cover up criminality by bank lawyers and their professional agents.    

Other instances of misconduct involving the judiciary                    

       

  • Willingness of certain former judges to become involved with reviews, which have been designed from the outset to favour banks and deny justice to their victims. These enquiries have been funded by the banks, which are themselves accused of serious wrongdoing. Examples include reviews of the Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBoS) Reading fraud and the deliberately flawed Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS). The conduct of retired judges is entirely unregulated.

William Mays grid table.jpg

3. HEBERT SMITH FREEHILLS 

 

Lawyers of choice for the denial of justice

 

Wherever there has been serious injustice, for example regarding Lloyds Banking Group’s frauds or the Post Office Horizon IT scandal, this firm of heavyweight lawyers has been closely involved. Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) have been the lawyers of choice for organisations, which have wished to frustrate justice and to delay and minimise proper compensation for their numerous victims. The allegations made against the firm could not be more serious. 


Their clients’ misconduct has resulted in untold injustice and the role of HSF in assisting such wrongdoing must be investigated. If found guilty of systematic malpractice and abuse of legal process, the firm should be shut down and its partners held liable for large-scale compensation. If the UK legal system is to command respect, those who comprehensively and deliberately abuse it, must be held to account. 


This section focusses on Herbert Smith Freehills, whose manipulation of the legal system has been particularly egregious. However, malpractice has been widespread throughout the legal profession and has involved, for example, DLA Piper, Linklaters, Eversheds Sutherland among major law firms, TLT and Walker Morris within medium-sized ones and Burges Salmon and Michelmores among regional lawyers. Government and regulators have openly tolerated widespread abuse of the legal system and the courts and done nothing to prevent the countless miscarriages of justice which have resulted.

The SRA’s “Principles” require that solicitors should act:
 

  • in a way that upholds the constitutional principle of the rule of law, and the proper administration of justice. 
     

  • in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons.
     

  • with independence. 
     

  • with honesty.
     

  • with integrity.
     

  • in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion.
     

  • in the best interests of each client.

We allege that Herbert Smith Freehills has violated the first five of the SRA’s Principles.
HERBERT SMITH FREEHILLS – “undermining public confidence in the legal profession”

 

 

The serious allegations against Herbert Smith Freehills

  • HSF has routinely disregarded its higher duties as officers of the court, which involve responsibility for the proper administration of justice. This requirement is fundamental to correct observance of the rule of law. Instead, the firm prioritised the commercial interests of major clients including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the Post Office and Lloyds Banking Group (LBG). This has been entirely unethical and wrong.        
                                                       

  • In conjunction with its major clients, HSF has run cases for costs and its own very substantial fees. From the outset, its objective has been to exhaust opponents’ financial resources and price them out of obtaining justice. This should have been stopped by presiding judges, but it has not been. This strategy has been deeply improper.  
                                                          

  • Having acted for the Post Office over its appeal against the verdict of the Common Issues trial, HSF was too conflicted either to act as mediators in the major Bates vs Post Office case or to oversee and administer the Post Office’s Historic Shortfall Scheme. These appointments should not have been allowed but they went ahead nevertheless.                                                        

  • Given its earlier role acting for Lloyds Banking Group over the Turnbull report, the firm was too conflicted to act as the solicitors for either the Griggs or the Dobbs reviews of the HBoS Reading fraud. HSF should not have acted under these conflicts of interest but once again, it simply chose to disregard them.            
                                                           

  • At the instigation of its major clients, HSF’s roles in respect of the Post Office’s Historic Shortfall Scheme (HSS) and the Griggs Review of the HBoS Reading fraud have been to minimise the compensation paid to long-standing victims of wrongdoing and criminality. HSF is continuing to administer the HSS and was substantially involved in the design and implementation of the Griggs review, both of which have been intentionally unjust. These roles have been significantly improper.                                      
                         

  • RBS, LBG and the Post Office have been consistently obstructive regarding disclosure and their conduct has represented the antithesis of openness and transparency. Regarding such matters, they will have relied on the advice of their lawyers, HSF.                                      
                     

  • As a result of its actions described in this section, Herbert Smith Freehills has undermined public confidence in the legal profession. It has done so with impunity, knowing that it would not be held to account by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The firm has been able to act without restraints, while it has derived major financial benefits for itself at the expense of justice and the victims of serious wrongdoing. The authorities should have acted to prevent this but have consistently failed to do so.

 

 

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)
1. Herbert Smith Freehills acted for RBS over shareholders action regarding the 2008 rights issue (April 2013 – June 2017): Three groups of claimants took part in a £4bn lawsuit, alleging that they were misled over the state of the bank’s health in relation to its £12bn rights issue in April 2008. Six months later, RBS had to be rescued by the Government, which injected £45.5bn of taxpayer funds and took a 79% stake in the bank. HSF employed up to 160 lawyers and fee earners in discovery involving six million documents but was criticised by HHJ Hildyard in November 2015 for “unfocussed disclosure.” In acting for RBS, HSF reportedly earned fees of £129mn, a level of costs which the judge described as making ATE (After The Event) insurance “difficult, if not impossible” to obtain. Two groups of claimants settled for 41-43p per share in December 2016 and April 2017 respectively, while RBS offered 82p per share, equal to £200mn in compensation, to the remaining litigants a month later, on the evening before the trial was due to start and when the former CEO Fred Goodwin would have been required to testify. 87% of the remaining claimants accepted the offer and the trial never took place.
                                           

Post Office
2. The Post Office’s failure to disclose the Clarke Advice: The organisation received the Clarke Advice in September 2013, which indicated that there were serious flaws in the Horizon IT system and its prosecutions of 706 sub-postmasters were potentially unsafe. A prosecutor in the possession of such information has an unqualified duty in law to disclose this to defendants, especially those who may have (and in this case, have proved to have been) wrongfully convicted. As a result of its professional due diligence, HSF will have known of its client’s failure to disclose the Clarke Advice. The latter is termed second category abuse of process. It prevented any appeals taking place for eight years and violated article six of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This guarantees the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time, and the definition of a fair trial includes any appeal. HSF should have filed suspicious activity reports (SARs) with the authorities but failed to do so. The abuse of the legal system and the courts by the Post Office and HSF was particularly egregious and those involved may yet face prosecution.                                            

3. Acted for Post Office over its appeal against the Common Issues trial verdict (May 2019 – March 2021): The Common Issues judgment was handed down on 15th March 2019. Six days later, the Post Office applied to replace the judge, adjourn and re-hear the Horizon Common Issues trial under a new judge. The provision of advice by the former President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger to the Post Office in respect of its recusal attempt has been described by Paul Marshall of Cornerstone Barristers as “objectionable”. On 19th May, after it had failed to halt the Horizon trial or get the judge recused, the Post Office used its new legal team of Herbert Smith Freehills in an attempt to reverse the Common Issues trial verdict at the Court of Appeal. When Post Office executives visited BEIS after losing the Common Issues trial, successful mediation was not on the agenda. Their objective was to reverse a judgment which had gone against them, stop a trial which was going badly and replace the judge, using substantial sums of taxpayers’ money. All of these attempts failed.
 

4. Acted as mediators with the sub-postmasters (28th November - 11th December 2019). The Government website states that mediation should involve the appointment of “an independent and impartial third person to help the parties talk through the issues, negotiate and come to a mutually agreeable solution.” However, HSF could never have been independent and impartial since the firm was heavily conflicted, having acted for the Post Office in its unsuccessful attempt to appeal against the Common Issues trial verdict. The appointment of HSF as mediators with the sub-postmasters should never have been permitted and was entirely improper.

Judgment in the second and main Horizon trial was due to be handed down on 16th December. However, mediation began before that on 28th November and was supposed to last for two days. Instead, it was prolonged for ten days, which was highly abnormal. On 11th December, “agreement” was announced, which involved the Post Office paying compensation of £57.7mn. Given that there were 555 claimants in Bates vs the Post Office, this sum was wholly inadequate but because of the tactics of Post Office and HSF, the claimants were running out of money. Having been improperly appointed as mediators, HSF ensured that their client offered the minimum possible compensation to the 555 sub-postmasters, despite the latter having previously won in court.        
       
                                       
   5. Appointed by the Post Office to oversee and manage the Historic Shortfall Scheme (May 2020) for those sub-postmasters, who had not taken part in the Bates vs Post Office case. Having been involved in the mediation with the Bates cases, this enabled HSF to exercise influence and authority over every sub-postmaster victim. Because HSF was so heavily conflicted, Rt. Hon Kevin Hollinrake MP described this as “putting the fox in charge of the hen coop.” However, the ministry responsible for the Post Office, BEIS took no action to prevent this going ahead.

Unlike the Post Office mediation scheme attempted in 2013 - 2015, the HSS excluded those sub-postmasters who had been given criminal convictions and included the Kafka-esque requirement that sub-postmasters with claims over £10,000 – the overwhelming majority – should waive all future claims against the Post Office before they knew what level of compensation they would receive. HSF has been involved in and responsible for every aspect of the Historic Shortfall Scheme and included this condition, which is unjustly designed to minimise the Post Office’s liability for compensation. 

HSF will also have known that the sub-postmasters, who have long been denied justice and proper compensation would, under the arrangements they were overseeing, be subject to tax. However, the Government only suggested that this further injustice would be rectified after Dan Neidle of Tax Policy Associates pointed this out in the Times. Had Mr Neidle not done so, the authorities and HSF would not have mentioned it.


In June, HSF was replaced by Burges Salmon, Bristol  as legal advisers to the Post Office in relation to the Horizon IT enquiry. However, the Post Office indicated, disturbingly for the long-suffering sub-postmasters, that HSF will continue to administer the Historic Shortfall Scheme (HSS). The appointment of Burges Salmon, which is said to have been the result of a tendering process, is decidedly unwelcome because the firm has long been associated with serious wrongdoing in relation to another major client of HSF, Lloyds Banking Group. 

From early 1980’s until 2010, Burges Salmon acted as the solicitors for Lloyds Recoveries, Bristol and its lawyers are accused of developing the illegal asset seizure techniques, which the bank and its professionals used. From 2008 to 2010, the SRA investigated 62 partners and staff of Burges Salmon, including its senior partner but took no enforcement action. However, there was a mass exodus from the firm and Lloyds was obliged to stop using Burges Salmon as its solicitors. In November 2017, one partner was tried for his role, with an entire team at Burges Salmon, in handling the proceeds of crime from the HBoS Reading fraud. In highly unusual circumstances, he was tried separately from the other six fraudsters, who had already been convicted and sentenced to a total of 47 years’ imprisonment and he was acquitted, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Another partner of Burges Salmon has twice been investigated by the SRA and been linked with at least four serious corporate frauds.

Burges Salmon continues to act for Crown Estates, of which the current Lloyds’ chairman, Sir Robin Budenberg is also the chairman. The appointment of Burges Salmon to replace HSF and advise the Post Office over the Horizon IT enquiry also appears to have been highly inappropriate.


 

Lloyds Banking Group (LBG)                        
               
6. Acted for LBG over the FSA regulatory enquiry (2009-2010): Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBoS) refused to investigate the Reading fraud and when it finally did so, the bank’s financial crime prevention team whitewashed it. HSF will have been fully aware of the scale and importance of the wrongdoing but later endorsed Lloyds’ refusal to investigate, a decision it will have known was entirely improper.
   
7. Acted for LBG over the Thames Valley Police investigation, Operation Hornet into the HBoS Reading fraud (2010-2016) including claiming legal privilege over documents which were not entitled to be protected, supplying the police with what the latter termed “vast amounts of irrelevant information” and “briefing witnesses, prior to police interviews, on what they could say without breaching the guidelines set by the bank and its lawyers.” As the All Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Business Banking (APPG-FBB) has noted: “From 2014 at the latest – and likely earlier than that – LBG retained HSF as its legal advisers,” so it is probable that the firm advised Lloyds over every aspect of the investigation by Thames Valley Police into the fraud.
 

8. Acted for LBG in relation to the Turnbull report (May 2014): Lloyds refused to investigate the evidence contained in the report and the bank’s head of legal affairs, Andrew Whittaker, who had previously been the FSA’s legal counsel for thirteen years, stated in a letter to the FCA that having reviewed Ms Masterton’s report in conjunction with “our legal advisers” (ie. HSF), Lloyds Banking Group was not persuaded that it would be an appropriate use of time and money to investigate “in light of the outcome of the previous investigation and its evaluation of the credibility of Mrs Masterton,” clearly questioning her motives, competence and mental balance. Until senior figures including the Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Mr Anthony Stansfeld intervened on her behalf, Lloyds was not going to compensate Ms Masterton and when she was finally compensated, she was subjected to a second non-disclosure agreement (NDA). 
 

In respect of the HBoS Reading fraud, LBG steadfastly denied knowledge and responsibility and as the APPG-FBB noted: The bank “maintained those denials, in which it engaged HSF’s active assistance, until well after the denials became untenable”, when the criminal trial finished in February 2017. The APPG-FBB continued: “Failure to give disclosure of information is a consistent theme in the conduct of LBG. It is impossible to infer that such failures were other than where legal advice had first been taken by LBG.” In short, HSF encouraged its client to lie because it knew there would be no penalty for lying.
 

Acted for LBG over the 5,800 Lloyds’ shareholders group action (Jun 2010 - Nov 2019): The major legal action was started in June 2010 and saw HSF play the case for time and its fees once again. Consequently, the trial only began seven years later in October 2017, with the verdict announced in November 2019. 

The Lloyds’ shareholders claimed that they had been “mugged” by the takeover of HBoS, which they had been. By early autumn 2008, according to the Turnbull report, HBoS was already “a gone concern” and “hopelessly insolvent”. Yet, neither the HBoS trading update on 12th December 2008, nor the Lloyds’ supplementary prospectus, dated 17th December, mentioned the £40bn hole in HBoS Corporate’s portfolio. Meanwhile, on 3rd November, HM Treasury signed off the Lloyds’ circular to shareholders and later that month, Lloyds’ Extraordinary General Meeting waved through the takeover. 

In delivering his verdict, the presiding judge, Sir Alistair Norris accepted that Lloyds’ management had failed to disclose that: 

HBoS had received a covert loan from the Bank of England - known as Emergency Liquidity Assistance, totalling £25.6bn in October 2008.

After announcing the intended acquisition, Lloyds had secretly loaned HBoS a further £10bn.

HBoS had received covert financial support from the US Federal Reserve, amounting to US$14.5bn (£11bn).
However, he ruled that in the context of “reflective loss”, if the company (Lloyds) had itself suffered loss, the shareholders could not claim damages. 


Unusually, the judge retired immediately after delivering his surprising verdict. This would have complicated any appeal, which actually never took place. One month before the judgment, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) wound up its seven-year investigation into LIBOR and one month afterwards, Andrew Bailey was announced as the next Governor of the Bank of England. 

10. Appointed by Lloyds as solicitors for the Griggs review (2017-2019): In July 2020, HSF was accused by the APPG-FBB in its complaint to the SRA of being “involved at every stage in establishing and undertaking the Griggs Review,”  something which the SRA was later at pains to deny. The Griggs enquiry was supposed “to agree the scope, methodology and individual case outcomes.” At paragraph 53, the APPG-FBB stated that “the structure of the review is very likely to have been agreed by LBG in consultation with HSF – if not in fact actually devised by HSF”. It continued: “The structure of the review……was designed, whether intentionally or otherwise, so that victims could not meet the assessment criteria.”  In practice, Griggs was widely perceived not to have had ultimate control over Lloyds’ decisions, or to have been independent. In December 2018, Rt. Hon Kevin Hollinrake MP commented in a Westminster Hall debate that Lloyds Bank had used the customer review “which is supposedly there to compensate the victims, to minimise payments and perpetuate the cover-up.” He added that he knew of only four out of 76 cases, which had received payments for direct and consequential loss. It was so universally condemned that in May 2019, the former High Court judge and solicitor general Sir Ross Cranston was appointed, and again paid by Lloyds, to conduct a review of the Griggs review. 

HSF was too conflicted to have been appointed as the solicitors for the Griggs enquiry and looks to have played a critical role in the deliberately flawed scheme.
                                   

11. Appointed by Lloyds as solicitors for the Dobbs review (April 2017 – present): It has been suggested that HSF has not played an active part in the Dobbs inquiry to protect its perceived independence. However, the former judge Dame Linda Dobbs will have been assisted in the provision of necessary documentation by HSF and given their past record in relation to the RBS shareholders’ group action, the Post Office, Lloyds shareholders’ group action and the Griggs Review, it raises questions about the Dobbs inquiry’s supposed independence. A significant number of documents, which the inquiry has required to see, are likely to have been privileged and Lloyds has not committed to waive legal privilege on these, promising only to deal with requests on a case-by-case basis. The Dobbs review, which is a private and not a public enquiry and funded by Lloyds, has so far been prolonged for more than six years, when given its remit, it might reasonably have been completed within twelve months. A principal reason for the pronounced delay has been the intention of Lloyds, which has to date paid an estimated £50mn for the review, to play for time for as long as possible and in acting as it has, Lloyds will have relied on the advice of its lawyers, Herbert Smith Freehills. 
 

HSF has been at the forefront of exploiting and abusing due legal process and using every conceivable means to deny justice and proper compensation to the victims of its major clients’ widespread wrongdoing. The firm has defended the serious misconduct of major UK institutions, with a favoured strategy being to play interminably for time to exhaust their opponents’ financial resources and ability to sustain their case. HSF has aligned its own commercial interests with the objectives of its clients and deliberately neglected the higher duties it owes to the court for the proper administration of justice. The firm has done so, knowing that it would never be held to account by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

4. THE SOLICITORS REGULATION AUTHORITY
Legal regulator not to be trusted by bank victims


In relation to serious wrongdoing by firms of solicitors and individual solicitors who have represented the banks, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has acted in a manner which has severely undermined public confidence. Like the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the legal regulator has considered that its primary responsibility is to member firms and has acted as a trade association. We believe that it has long been instructed by Government and higher authority to protect the banks, its officers and their professional agents and we cite the following examples of the SRA’s failure to act correctly.

SRA chief executive - lying over Herbert Smith Freehills’ involvement with the Griggs Review


The fraud involving Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBoS)’s Reading branch is significant because it has been the only case of serious banking fraud, which the authorities have failed to prevent being prosecuted. Following the successful trial of those immediately responsible in February 2017, the authorities went into strong damage limitation mode, involving Lloyds, which had taken over HBoS in 2009, and Andrew Bailey, then chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), jointly arranging the first of four wholly unnecessary reviews of the fraud, the main aim of which was to prevent the victims receiving meaningful compensation anytime soon. 


We described the first review by Professor Russel Griggs, which was the most conspicuously improper on pages 15-16. In July 2020, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Business Banking (APPG-FBB) filed a detailed complaint with the SRA against Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), which was sub-titled “undermining confidence in the legal profession.” In paragraph 21, it noted that:


"HSF were also retained by Lloyds Banking Group in a compensation review for victims of the Reading IAU (Impaired Assets Unit) fraud undertaken by Professor Russel Griggs. HSF were involved at every stage in establishing and undertaking the Griggs review." 


However, the SRA chief executive Paul Philip considered that he needed to protect a major law firm such as HSF and dismiss the APPG-FBB complaint. A straight-forward way was for him to do so was to state, as he did in a letter dated 20th November 2020 to the APPG-FBB chairman, Kevin Hollinrake MP: “We are satisfied that (HSF) was not responsible for its (the Griggs review's) design and implementation.” This was deliberately untrue and he provided no evidence to support his view. 
In its subsequent submission to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee in January 2022, the APPG-FBB was sufficiently confident in its opinion to re-state on page two: 


“It is worth noting that the discredited Griggs Review was designed by Lloyds with the support and involvement of Herbert Smiths Freehills, the same firm that has designed the current sub-postmasters scheme.”


The BEIS Select Committee then sided with the APPG, when it commented in its interim report a month later (paragraph 32): 
“We were even more surprised when he (Post Office CEO Nick Read) confirmed that Herbert Smith Freehills, which advised Lloyds in developing the HBOS Reading redress scheme, had helped Post Office Limited in delivering the Historic Shortfall Scheme.” 


However, the SRA chief executive was obliged to dissemble about HSF’s involvement because he will have been conscious that HSF continues to act as the solicitors for the Dobbs review, yet another of the Reading fraud, which has been prolonged for more than six years to serve the interests of Lloyds Banking Group. 


Lloyds’ mistreatment of the victims of the Reading fraud has provided a textbook case of how not to deal with the aftermath of a major banking fraud. By dismissing the APPG-FBB complaint against Herbert Smith Freehills, the regulator has effectively aided and abetted the bank’s serious misconduct.

2. Refusal to provide Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner with the Bevan Brittan    LLP report into Burges Salmon
In 2018, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Mr Anthony Stansfeld was informed that an independent report, which the SRA had commissioned from the law firm Bevan Brittan LLP in 2008 to assist its investigation into alleged serious professional misconduct at the Bristol solicitors, Burges Salmon, contained important information, which would assist Thames Valley Police (TVP) with its enquiries. 


Due to its leading role in the prosecution of the HBoS Reading fraud, TVP was very knowledgeable about related matters and brought pressure to bear on the relevant police authority, Avon & Somerset Police, to conduct a thorough investigation.

 

However, when Mr Stansfeld requested a copy of the Bevan Brittan report from the SRA, the chief executive Paul Philip dispatched his second-in-command to visit Mr Stansfeld personally at TVP headquarters and inform him that because the report was an “internal document”, it could not be disclosed. If there was nothing to hide, the report should have been provided - and it was not.


The decision to withhold the Bevan Brittan report from Thames Valley Police was taken at the highest level, by the SRA chief executive himself.    
               
3. Sham SRA / SDT prosecution of one of the UK’s most corrupt solicitors
In 2008, the SRA undertook a two-year investigation into 62 partners and staff of Burges Salmon, which acted for Lloyds Recoveries unit, Bristol. The enquiry ended in 2010 and serious wrongdoing is believed to have been identified. A mass exodus from the firm took place, which included the senior partner, numerous partners and staff. However, the SRA took no enforcement action of any kind.


In 2015, the regulator had a second opportunity to act correctly, when an estimated thirty complaints of serious professional misconduct were submitted to the SRA regarding one of the partners, who was among those investigated in 2008-2010. This individual is alleged to have performed central and / or important roles in at least four major corporate frauds and to have engaged in serious criminal fraud throughout his career. However, as a former partner of Burges Salmon which had acted for Lloyds Banking Group, he enjoyed “protected” status.


This second SRA investigation (2015-2016) was handled by a senior investigator but unusually in autumn 2015, he was transferred to the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission – see section 5 below - with which the SRA has maintained close ties. One possible reason for his transfer is that he may have been asked to restrict his investigation, which given the large number of complaints, he knew was improper. A more junior colleague took over and dismissed all but one of the estimated thirty complaints against the solicitor, who was later prosecuted over just one complaint of professional misconduct. This had been made by another firm of solicitors and could not so easily be dismissed by the regulator. 


At a subsequent hearing, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found the solicitor guilty, struck him off and fined him heavily, only for the latter to appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice and following a suspicious verdict, which drew the dubious distinction between dishonesty and a lack of integrity, he was reinstated as a solicitor and forgiven the fine. The solicitor with links to four serious corporate frauds was effectively free to commit further white-collar crime but the decision to restore his professional status was more likely taken in the interests of the regional law firm, Michelmores where he was then a partner, to protect it from large-scale claims for compensation. 


The investigation and prosecution by the SRA of this corrupt professional carries all the hallmarks of a deeply improper cover up and sham. An alternative prosecution, which was based on all the complaints lodged against the solicitor, would almost certainly have reached a very different verdict, which could not have been overturned on appeal. However, it would also have brought a large body of evidence about the extensive wrongdoing of Lloyds Recoveries Bristol, its two associated secondary lenders and the professional agents they shared onto the court record, something which the authorities were determined to avoid. Needless to say, the SRA chose not to undertake such a prosecution.

4. Refusal to investigate complaint of Lloyds victims against a partner of TLT Solicitors
The cases of two high-profile Welsh victims of Lloyds Banking Group were the subject of a Westminster Hall debate in September 2015, which was led by their respective MPs, Jo Stevens and Huw Irranca-Davies. The debate described serious criminal wrongdoing involving Lloyds Recoveries Bristol, their solicitors TLT and property agents, Alder King. Their cases, which were also taken up by the Business Secretary, Rt. Hon Vince Cable MP, involved extensive malfeasance including heavy down-valuations to trigger loan-to-value breaches. Alder King had previously been owned by Lloyds and was appointed as receiver in both instances. A partner of the estate agents had been seconded to Lloyds Bristol and used a Lloyds e-mail address, which did not identify him as a partner of Alder King. Despite blatant criminality, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) declined to take any action. 


The two victims then complained to the SRA, stating that one partner of TLT Solicitors, which was acting for Lloyds and the receiver simultaneously, had operated under a serious conflict of interest and shared confidential information to their great detriment. The SRA later met the victims at its offices and started to take their evidence but broke off mid-way through the meeting and refused to meet them again.    


One way in which numerous agencies such as the SRA, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and regional police forces have avoided investigating complaints of serious criminality involving the banks, their officers and professional agents has been to refuse to accept victims’ evidence in the first place. If you never receive the evidence, there can be nothing to investigate – it’s as corrupt as that.

5. Barrass appointed chief executive of the Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS)
Samantha Barrass had worked for the SRA for five years from 2009 but in 2014, she left to become chief executive of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission. It was Barrass therefore, who agreed to the transfer of the SRA investigator at CEO Paul Philip’s request in autumn 2015 – see section 3 above. 


In 2019, Samantha Barrass and Peter Taylor were appointed as chief executive and head of legal services of the BBRS respectively, while they were still embroiled in a court case in Gibraltar. Barrass left the BBRS after only two months and Taylor also later resigned. However, neither should have been appointed to these positions in the first place, with the Gibraltar legal case hanging over them. 


The BBRS, which was established by Andrew Bailey when he was chief executive of the FCA, HM Treasury and the major banks, has proved to be a separate national scandal. The inappropriate appointment of Barrass got the scheme off to a poor start, but the BBRS was never designed to deliver justice to its many applicants. It has always been a deliberate and expensive hoax.

6. SRA tried, but failed, to reduce significantly the ceiling for compensation of victims of corrupt solicitors  


In July 2020, the SRA announced plans to restrict severely the compensation ceiling for claims by victims of dishonest solicitors, which are not covered by professional indemnity insurance. The regulator wanted to reduce this from £2mn to £500,000. 


However, in April 2021, the chief executive of the Legal Services Board, Matthew Hill issued a warning notice to the SRA stating that “granting the application would be prejudicial to the regulatory objectives, in particular, protecting and promoting the interests of consumers…and the public interest”. The SRA withdrew the proposals but had demonstrated that the regulator regarded the interests of its member firms as more important than the need to treat consumers fairly and respect the public interest. It was fortunate that its plans were blocked by the Legal Services Board.        

                               
7. Failure to enforce anti-money laundering (AML) rules
The regime concerning money laundering has been a complete farce but an entirely deliberate one. As long ago as 2002, the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) exempted the legal profession from reporting suspicions of money laundering, when these came to lawyers “in privileged circumstances” and significant areas of legal work fall outside AML rules. Nine separate bodies are supposed to supervise the rules, with the largest being the SRA, but they have comprehensively failed to do so for many years. 60% of firms, which the SRA visited in 2020/2021, were not fully compliant but the worst they can expect to receive is a slap on the wrist. The average fine for breaches in the previous year was £11,906 and in the last three years, none of the top twenty five law firms has been fined, let alone prosecuted, for breaches of money laundering rules. 


Putin and other international kleptocrats have benefitted overwhelmingly from the UK’s long-held and shameful stance on money laundering. We suggest that the volume of illicit money laundered through London in the last two decades may have exceeded £1 trillion (one thousand billion pounds). Meanwhile, the total of AML fines issued over the last three years by the nine supervising bodies has been £621,252 and the total of related fines issued by the SRA / SDT in 2020 - 2021 was £67,500 ! 
The UK’s anti money laundering regime is an international disgrace and the SRA has been one of the leading organisations responsible for this deeply unsatisfactory state of affairs. 


SRA – the regulator’s refusal to act correctly
With their detailed knowledge of the law, solicitors are key individuals in our legal system. They are highly experienced professionals, who are trusted by their clients and the public at large to act with integrity at all times.


However, when a firm of solicitors or individual solicitors decide to act improperly, they are virtually unstoppable by means of court process because they can run cases almost indefinitely at low marginal cost to themselves and with their extensive connections within the legal profession, they know which barristers to use and the judges who are likely to be co-operative. 


The public therefore relies on the SRA to regulate the conduct of solicitors correctly. Hence, its “Principles”, which we cited on page 9. The regulator recently demonstrated that it can move extremely quickly, when at the request of Government, it closed in a matter of days three firms of solicitors, which were submitting false asylum applications. However, in the case of solicitors who have acted for the banks, defended their clients’ serious misconduct and criminal fraud, abused due legal process and worse, the regulator has spent more than a decade refusing to investigate or adequately prosecute such firms and their professionals. As a result, the latter know that they can act with impunity. 


The strong implication behind the SRA’s refusal to take appropriate action against misconduct by firms of solicitors and individual solicitors, who have acted for the banks is that the legal regulator has long been under instruction not to take any action by Government and higher authority. The consequence of deliberate regulatory failure has been large-scale injustice perpetuated in courts across the UK and the collapse of trust of bank victims in the British legal system.

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