This book review is partially a “homage” to my late friend and colleague, Paul Moore, who exposed the illegal practices of the HBOS bank in the U.K. leading up to “the crash” that inevitably followed. Paul passed away last year before I had a chance to read his book and discuss it with him and I miss him greatly . I encourage you to read his obituary from the link at the end of my review. 🙏🙏
I read this book in less than a week, unable to put it down just as I would read a thriller novel, racing to get to the point where the bad guys got their come-uppance or were shot! Sadly real life isn’t always like that and quite often the bad guys get away with it or are subjected to a mere slap on the wrist despite overwhelming evidence against them.
It is a point of fact that nobody, not a single person, has been subjected to civil or criminal prosecution following the banking crisis in the U.K. including the complete collapse of the share value of £30bn created by the merger of The Halifax BS and the Bank of Scotland to create HBOS. The new company was forced into seeking a £20bn bailout payment courtesy of the U.K. taxpayer!
Crash, Bank Wallop tells the anger inducing story, blow by blow, of how the reckless lending policies of the three men at the top of the bank, Stevenson, Crosby and Hornby were challenged bravely and legitimately by the late Paul Moore (1958-2020).
The book is organised into five sections, though not overtly. These are Early life and personal background, Career pre HBOS, The HBOS years, You’re fired, Fighting for justice. It’s a most logical sequence with each section being important to understand the next. I mention this obvious linking because some reviewers have criticised the need for chapters describing Paul’s early life. I thought I knew the author well, we worked together at KPMG, at HBOS and in his final role after HBOS. In every case he was quite idiosyncratic, eloquent, precise, had a considerable work ethic and a strong moral compass, and these early chapters describing his education, his relationship with his parents, and engaging in high risk sports, such as hang gliding, reveal how he must have had the \”constitution of an ox\” to withstand the mental battering he took during and post HBOS.
There is a lot of detail in the second half of the book, but this is necessary and shows how the behaviour of HBOS directors was a continuous stream of ignoring FSA regulations and Paul’s warnings that they were doing so. There are two tragedies revealed by this book. The first is that many of the protagonists are either still in senior roles in the financial services industry, or living a life of ease on all the money they made at the taxpayers expense. The second is that there has been no focused, forensic enquiry into how a corporate giant took the U.K. government and the tax payer for a ride, without the regulator and a major accountancy firm preventing it. Paul Moore must be spinning in his grave!