Sunday, 28 July 2013

Evasive "Orange."

We are now all now familiar with the way in which Google, Starbucks, Amazon, Vodafone  et al avoid paying their due taxes, and relieved that, at last, governments seem to be trying to do something about it.  I've just discovered what may be another little wheeze large firms use to avoid their civic accountabilities.

I have a complaint to make about "Orange" who provide the network for my little-used but hugely costly mobile telephone, so yesterday wrote them a letter to explain how I felt I'd been "ripped off" and asked for some modest compensation.

I prefer in these circumstances to send letters and, I hope, receive answers, in written form, rather than use Emails which can easily get lost, or telephone calls, of which I have no proof of what has or has not been admitted or promised.

It seems that "Orange", and I suspect other large firms, take the opposite view, because I then spent well over an hour using several search engines to try and find the address of their head office.  I presumed that my failure was due to my ineptitude until I discovered the following on


Orange deliberately makes it impossible for us to search their head
office address in the UK because the law requires us to send our
complaints to a non-p.o.-box address before we can request court
action against Orange no matter how badly Orange has screwed up. I've
written to their Correspondence Department (P.O. Box 10, Patchway,
Bristol) and they ignored me. Their head office address can only be
found if you search for career options with Orange on their website.
This address will then appear in a JAVA box. That's why no search
engine result will bring this up.

The link to this page is
Just in case Orange will change this once they know we've found it,
here's the address to send your complaint to

Orange Centre Office
The Point
37 North West Road
London W2 1AG

Well, I've sent off my letter to this address  and look forward to a positive response.

It seems to me that, just as election literature must contain the name and address of the person responsible for publishing it, so should business material on the internet.  Apart from the legal aspects, if businesses, especially hotels, were forced to give their street addresses along with their post codes,  it would help those of us who use SATNAVs to find them.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Glimmers of growth are welcome, but only in the short run.

So the British economy "grew" by 0.6% in the last quarter, which I'm sure some Tory "perception managers" will shorty be telling us is an an improvement of 100% over the previous quarter. Wow!

I leave it to to others to make the obvious points that, as  students of the trade cycle well know, economies in recession do eventually recover, and that  without George Osborne's oxymoronic "expansionary austerity" policy the recovery would have been much quicker.  In the short run we must be thankful that those who are feeling the pinch most in this downturn will get a bit of relief.

In the long run, however, (and I hope I'm not dead before the political classes begin to make it more seriously), we must recognise that "Enough is Enough", that a per capita national income in the region of £25 000 is quite sufficient to provide everyone in this country with a comfortable lifestyle, and devise methods of sharing that largesse so that everyone has the means of fulfilling their aspirations.

Here is my review,  published in the latest copy of Liberator, of just one of the books that tackles this issue.

Enough is Enough by Bob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, Earthscan (from Routledge) 2103.  240 pages,  £12.99

Bob Dietz (American) and Dan O’Neill (Canadian but working in the UK at Leeds University) are respectively executive director and chief economist for the US based Center for the Advancement of the Steady state Economy (CASSE).  The book, subtitled ‘Building a sustainable economy in a World of finite resources’ is basically an account of the raison d’ĂȘtre of CASSE.  The 15 chapters, from ‘Have you had enough?’ to ‘Enough waiting’ deal with the problems of achieving a full and fair distribution of the world’s resources, work and products and the achievement of the possibility of fulfilment and happiness for all when we accept that the present solution offered by most political parties and financial institutions (yet more economic growth) is untenable, and that the need for an alternative is urgent.
There is not a great deal in this book that is new but it brings together the key findings of such as Tim Jackson (Prosperity without Growth),   Wilkinson and Pickett, (The Spirit Level), Peter Victor, the American Herman Daly and many others.  Each chapter is thoroughly indexed and it provides a comprehensive and highly readable account of the field.
Although some readers may be irritated by the use of American English and idioms (what on earth is a ’doohhickey’?) there is a good deal of readable anecdotal description to support the arguments, some nice touches of humour [“A Tobin tax (named after an influential economist, or a Robin Hood tax (named after an influential social worker”] and some amusing cartoons from
A major them of the book is that, although economic growth and  well-being go hand in hand from poverty levels to  middle income, beyond a certain point, which the authors  estimate to be around the equivalent of $US17 000 per head, further growth does not bring further improvements in the quality of life.  On the contrary,, the rising inequality which seems to accompany economic growth in most societies causes deterioration in community cohesion and mental well-being.  Nor can we rely on growth to improve the lot of the poorest: a rising tide does not in practice lift all boats.
The writers are concerned to limit population growth but, pointing out that the annual world population growth of 80m is almost exactly balanced by the 80m or so unintended pregnancies each year, they  mercifully content themselves with wider access to contraception rather than more draconian measures.  Whilst acknowledging, however, that a substantial proportion of the world’s population need further growth in order to reach a decent standard of living, the chapter discussing the ‘degrowth’ necessary in rich societies such as our own is rather thin.
The one chapter which I find unconvincing  is that on money, banking and debt.  The authors seem to be unaware of the measures by which governments control money supplies (or could if they tried) and wish to introduce a system by which money creation by bank debt should become illegal and currencies should have 100% backing. . .but with what isn’t clear.  A return to the “barbarous relic’ of the gold standard, perhaps.
At present economic debate in the UK is focussed on how to achieve fuller  employment and  prosperity for all, or at least more, through the resumption of economic growth.  There is little talk of greater sharing, and planned ‘degrowth’ to conserve resources and reduce pollution is barely mentioned.  The right-wing are obsessed with the alleged problem of handing on our debts to future generations.  To those  who want to look beyond the immediate to the real problem, of avoiding bequeathing to future generations an impoverished and sterile planet along with broken societies, this book is a useful introduction .

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Vince Cable hauled over the Coles (ouch!)

Both my friend John Cole and I heard Vince Cable's address to last week's Social Liberal Forum meeting in Manchester with very mixed feelings. Here is John's "open letter" to Vince.  I'll be interested in the reply.

Dear Dr Cable

I was present when you gave your presentation of the Social Liberal Forum in Manchester on Saturday.   Thank you for that presentation – with much of which I wholly concurred.  We do need to re-balance the economy in the direction you pointed to and you are quite right to advocate a proactive business strategy for government.

However, there were points in your presentation where I beg to differ from you.

I am pleased that you did not castigate the previous Labour government for excessive deficit spending prior to 2008.  Conservative ministers and commentators (and I am afraid some Liberal Democrats too) have sought to perpetuate the myth that our current fiscal crisis was caused by wildly excessive current government spending. (The evidence that this was NOT the case has been presented, using OBR and ONS statistics, by Prof. Simon Wren-Lewis  - I suggest you check his blog “Mainly Macro” - 12th June  2013).         Instead you appear to  criticise Labour for relying on high but uncertain tax revenues from both the housing market and the financial services sector to fund government spending (with consumer spending being supported by excessive lines of credit).  This argument has more traction and I give you credit for having been early into the field to raise the alarm on this front.    However, bearing in mind that the Conservative official opposition and the   broadsheet commentators were endorsing Chancellor Brown's policies, this leaves them ill-placed to criticise at this point in time.  In short, your criticism of Labour in power applies equally to Cameron and Osborne on the shadow benches.

I note that you,  like me, read your economics at university at a time when Keynesianism was in full fashion.  I feel you were too quick today to dismiss Keynesian remedies for dealing with the current flat-lining  performance of the UK economy.  I acknowledge (as Keynes undoubtedly would, if he were alive today) that the UK economy is much changed in the last 70 years, as has the world economy.  There have been significant institutional changes, economies are more open and trade is more globalised.  Worst of all, power and influence  has transferred from sovereign governments to large, transnational corporations, creating a democratic deficit.  Present circumstances are far less propitious for enacting a classic Keynesian reflation via deficit spending, but that does not mean to say that an updated, re-configured Keynesian approach has nothing to contribute.  If he were with us today I am confident Keynes would revamp his policy prescription.  To dismiss Keynesian policy, as you appeared to do,  is to throw out the baby with the bathwater.   I am sure that Paul Krugman,  Joe Stiglitz (not to mention Simon Wren-Lewis) would agree with me (see Paul Krugman's excellent book “End This Depression Now” ).  

The “Bathwater Theorem”, which holds that the level of the bathwater (national income) will rise only when injections exceed leakages is as true today as it was in 1936.

This brings me to my next point:  You claimed rather triumphantly that Labour has now recognised the “inappropriateness” of  its policies when in government and, more especially the inappropriateness of the Keynesian approach advocated by Ed Balls (e.g. in his Blomberg speech).  I think Labour has made a mistake in hauling down its colours – it has been pusillanimous.  The change of tack can, to my mind, be explained only by an excessive paying of attention to focus groups and a surrender to the drip, drip, drip of (ill-informed) criticism in the red-tops.   Labour is triangulating. 

(By the by, I do not carry a torch for the Labour Party, but I do carry one for intellectual honesty).

Ed Balls and Labour should stick to their guns because, in my view, (and supported by the evidence) they are on the right side.   By contrast George Osborne, David Cameron, Danny Alexander, David Laws and to an extent yourself, are on the wrong side of this argument.

Why do I assert this?  For three reasons:

1 The evidence which is adduced by Krugman,  Stiglitz,  Richard Koo,  Simon Wren-Lewis,  Martin Wolf etc. etc. etc.

2 The collapse of the intellectual/academic case for austerity and “expansionary fiscal consolidation”.  The work in this area of Alesina and Ardegna, on the one hand and Rheinhart and Rogoff on the other has been subjected to close scrutiny and found wanting.  More than that, their work is discredited.

3 Institutions such as the IMF and OECD, which originally “bought” the Rheinhart-Rogoff and Alesina-Ardegna line and advocated austerity are now gently changing their tune and recognising the value of fiscal stimulation.  (Whilst at the highest levels the tone of the IMF's new tune is quite muted,  at a lower level IMF staffers are coming up with papers which evidence the damage which austerity policies are doing around the world).

Do you disagree with me?   Do you feel I have got this wrong?  I could ask you to feel free to state your position – but there I must give pause because you are in government as a cabinet minister and are bound by collective responsibility.  Neither privately nor publicly can you agree with me.  However, I can cherish the thought that there is a possibility that privately  you do agree with me, even if you can't say so.

On that note I shall finish.

Yours sincerely

John Cole

Monday, 15 July 2013

Pensions questions: l'esprit de l'escalier

I'm told that whereas Tory David Willets bears the sobriquet "Two-brains."  our Liberal Democrat Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, outclasses him and is dubbed "Three-brains." He is certainly in command of his subject and, as a former Professor of Social Policy with, now, three years' government  experience, so he should be.  He also has a very relaxed and engaging manner, more of which later.

Steve fielded my questions (see previous post) at last Saturday's Social Liberal Forum with friendly expertise. I pre-empted the response that "things are getting better" or ( "less worse," as I should prefer to put it, since the maximum lifetime pension pot is being reduced from £1.5m to £1.25m from 2014) by quoting the future largesse that maximum pot-holders will receive -  a lump sum of £312 000 and an annual pension of £56 193, rather than the even greater luxury of a  £375 000 lump sum and an annual £58 488.75 which present maximum pot-holders receive.  Almost half of this   munificence is funded by we the taxpayers, and that includes all of us, even  the very poorest: it's very difficult to live without paying at least some VAT and duties, even if your earnings are below the income tax threshold.

Steve was quick to point out that there is a sense that pensions are taxation deferred in  that these fortunate individuals may not pay tax on their contributions, but they do pay tax on the pension.

First esptrit de l'escalier:*  I failed to point out that this argument doesn't apply to the 25% of the pot that can be taken as a lump sum, which is tax free.

Steve went on to admit that this argument  is less impressive when we recognise that, whilst tax relief is often claimed at the higher rates, the annual pension payments are often taxed only at the standard rate. He assured us that it is Liberal Democrat policy that tax relief on pensions should  be at the standard rate only.

Whilst giving what appeared to be general agreement to my proposal that a ceiling should be placed on the total size of the pension pot which can be accumulated tax free (I suggested about £400,000, which would produce a lump sum of about £48 000, plus an annual pension of about £21 000, around the size of the median wage), beyond which those who wanted even greater luxury in retirement (or more probably to ensure benefits for their offspring or favourite causes) should jolly well pay for them themselves and not rely on we taxpayers, he did not commit himself to a precise figure.  We can, he assured us, look forward to announcements or radical pension reform in the near future.  I shall be watching with interest

Second esprit de l'escalier: I failed to ask what proportion of the £35 billion (yes, billion) a year the Treasury contributes towards these pensions goes towards "modest" pensions, up to the median wage limit described above, and what to payments above that. Suppose it is about half.  That means that about £17.5 billion of public money is being spent each year on supporting luxury beyond most people's wildest dreams.

To put this figure into context, (and of course it may be much less - but even £1billion is an awful lot of money) a letter in today's Guardian claims that the NHS is expected to endure cuts of £30 billion spread over the next eight years, and the replacement of Trident, should you want it, will be "at least £20bn."

In a month in which the coalition of which we are part has extended the period of non payment of the Job Seekers' Allowance from three to seven days after losing a job, thus pushing more of the most vulnerable into the hands of pay-day loan sharks, and is today  implementing a benefits cap which will impact mostly on children who are already disadvantaged and is estimated to save only £250 million a year, I regret that Steve Webb's engaging  manner prevented my pushing a little harder for concrete details and and evidence of our priorities.

Maybe, and I  hope,  behind the scenes Three-brains Webb  is as tough as I am easily disarmed.

*An apposite  French phrase describing the ripostes  you wish you'd given  as you descent the stairs after an interview

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Ordinary taxpayers fund lavish pensions for the super-rich.

On Saturday I shall be attending a meeting of the Social Liberal Forum in Manchester and, as a blogger, have been given the opportunity to take part in a lunchtime question and answer session with Steve Webb, Minister  of State for Pensions in the coalition.

My question, if I get the chance to ask it, will concern the way that the rich are enabled to build up huge pension pots with tax-free contributions.  I have chuntered about this in previous posts but, to prepare myself, have now looked into the details.  These are even more astonishing than I'd suspected.

At present anyone with the means is allowed to contribute to a pension pot up to the amount of his or her  annual salary.  So,  for example, if you earn £35 000 a year, then you can put £35 000, tax free, towards your pension.  (How you find that extra £35 000 isn't explained:  presumably from the bank of mum and dad,  from accumulated wealth or an inheritance.)  The present maximum permitted contribution is £50 000 a year.

However, you don't have to find the whole £50 000.  If, for example, your earnings put you in the highest tax bracket, currently 45%, then you just put £27 500 into the pension, and the Treasury contributes the other £22 500 (the tax that would have been paid on on income of £50 000).  If the mathematics of that confuses you, then consider an income tax payer at the standard rate of 20% who puts in £8 000: then the Treasury puts in, yes, £2 000 (the tax that would have been paid at 20% on £10 000.)  The current maximum permitted size of the pot is £1.5million, almost half of which, for a taxpayer on the top rate for the whole period of contributions,  would have been contributed by the Treasury: that is, you and me.

According to financial advisers Hargreaves Lansdown, the Treasury paid out a total of £35bn on this scheme in 2010/11.When the pension pot is paid out, any capital gains are tax-free, as is any part of the pot taken as a lump sum.

To discover actual figures which this largesse of public expenditure would generate I have pretended  that I have contributed to the maximum of £1.5 million, that  I am 65 and about to retire at the end of this year, answered a few questions about my health and habits (now non-smoker, normal blood pressure, no major health problems ) and received the cheering news from that my pot will produce  a tax-free lump sum of £375 000, plus an annual pension of £58 488.75.  (This would be in addition to my Old Age Pension, currently about £110 a week, or 
£5 700 or so a year, which is all a lot of pensioners have to live on in our "all in this together" society.).

It is perfectly legitimate and sensible to encourage saving for retirement by offering a tax incentive, but surely there should be a limit.  My own suggestion is that the limit  should be up to that which is estimated to be necessary to produce a retirement income equivalent to the median wage.  Those who wish for a more generous provision for themselves in old age should be perfectly free to do so, but at their own expense and not  the expense of the taxpayer.

My question to Steve Webb will be: What limit does he propose, and what measures is the coalition taking to approach that limit?

He may well reply that already, as from 2014/15, the maximum annual contribution is to be reduced  to
£40 000 and the lifetime allowance to £1.25m.  Well, that's a move in the right direction but  that £1.25m would still generate for a healthy 65 year old a  tax-free lump sum of £312 5000 and an annual pension of £56 193.00.  The median wage is about £21 000, so there's still a long way to go.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Miliband, Labour, and the Unions.

The Tory "perception management" machine has scored another triumph by diverting the odium of questionable party funding and consequent  influence from themselves to Labour.

I cannot see anything particularly terrible in the Unite union trying to encourage its members to sign up individually to the Labour Party and influence the selection of a candidate.  Yes,  the payment of the membership fees by a single cheque sounds a bit "iffy" but, as Chris Hitchins's father apparently  used to say : "Worse things happen in big ships."

When we ask ourselves what  actual connection David Miliband had with South Shields, Ed has with Doncaster North or, to take a more obscure example, Hilary Benn has with Leeds Central (a constituency I contested for the Liberals n the 1980s, when I  worked there and lived within seven or so miles.) Any attempt to have working people involved in the selection of a candidate seems reasonable, even if the methods to achieve it could be tidied up a little.

But these vaguely dubious shenanigans in the Labour Party pale into insignificance compared with the the methods by which the Conservative Party maintains its dominance, and in so doing places itself in hock to  big business and finance.  Whilst trade union funding of the Labour Party is relatively transparent, the funding of the Conservatives by some 15 family groups, and the financial services sector which generates about half their income, remains obscure. But at the last election the Tories spent £16.6millon, double Labour's £8million and almost four times the Liberal Democrat's relatively puny £4.8million.  And that's just the official expenditure during the campaign.  Add the millions the likes of Lord Ashcroft pour into marginal seats on behalf of favoured candidates and the unevenness of the playing field  becomes even more apparent.

Ed Miliband is in my view very foolish to have allowed himself to be bounced into tidying up his own back yard and risking a massive loss of income while the Tory advantage remains intact.  Some commentators have taken the view that Miliband's move will embarrass Cameron into taking similar action.  Some hope: our ruling classes don't do "embarrassment.".

Liberals and Liberal Democrats have long advocated that trade union members should be able to indicate to which party their portion of the levy  should be given.  This seems a reasonable compromise but has always been resisted by both the Labour Party  and the Union leaders.

There is clearly an urgent need for further talks to lance the boil of party funding, During the later years of the Labour government,  following the review of party funding by Sir Hayden Phillips, agreement was almost reached, and then it was the Tories who walked away.  Nick Clegg's more recent  attempts have now been abandoned.

 It is a damning indictment of our democracy that we are incapable of introducing a greater measure of fairness into our political system.  In my view the best suggestion so far is that put forward by Professor Stein Ringen*.  In the meantime we should never let it be forgotten that the major abuser of and benefactor from the present inadequately regulated system is the Conservative Party.

*  Briefly, individual, corporate and union contributions are strictly limited.  Parliament decides on the additional total amount needed annually to service our democracy.  Say it is £60 million with 30 million electors.  Each elector is issued annual with a voucher for £2.  Party stalwarts will promptly send it to their favoured party and the Treasury will hand over the cash.  The "plague on all your houses" brigade will promptly burn it.  Dedicated party workers will canvas all households in the hope of persuading them to hand their vouchers over to them for the benefit for their party. 

This has the advantage of providing fairly distributed state funding but at the same time forcing the parties to keep in touch with the electorate,  whereas the alternative of direct state funding enables the party headquarters  to ignore both their members and the electorate and continue to thrive in their own little bubble.  This system was described by Professor Ringen in "Liberal Democrat News" some years ago, but I do not have the reference.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Belief beggared again.

"It beggars belief" has, I'm sure, become overworked among my lexicon of phrases to express exasperation at the imbecilities of our political leaders, but what else is there to say?

Here's the latest example. One of the few areas in which Britain retains an international comparative trading advantage is higher education.  So instead of capitalising on this our government has made it harder and harder for overseas students to obtain visas, left some of them high and dry without viable courses, and is now talking about demanding bonds of £3 000 in case they make use of our medical or welfare services.

So, surprise surprise, the number of overseas applications to our universities has fallen and a nice little earner has been hit on the head.

Now the government has realised the damage it has done and Mr Cameron is reported to have written a letter suggesting we try to "repair the damage done by the government's student visa restrictions" by encouraging academies and free schools to recruit overseas pupils  as part of a "new education export strategy."

Once upon a time our civil service was regarded as being of Rolls Royce quality, with some of the finest brains in the country at its head.  And many of our current leading politicians have first class qualifications from our poshest universities.

So what is going wrong?  How is it that this well oiled political structure which we like to claim is "the best in the world and the envy of the world" is incapable of anticipating the most obvious adverse consequences of its  policies.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Wither amnesty for illegal immigrants?

I think it was in the first of the Party Leaders' debates before the last election that Nick Clegg so courageously   advanced our Liberal Democrat policy of an amnesty for a carefully defined group of illegal immigrants.  Again and again he countered the populist opportunism  of Cameron and Brown, who wanted, if not to hang, draw and quarter them, at least  to deport them with the utmost dispatch.  Apart from the merits of the case:  "How are you going to find them?"  he repeatedly asked.

This was the debate which gained Clegg so much kudos that one party "senior" declared: "He walks on water."  How times change.

Clegg took pains to define carefully the immigrants who should qualify for amnesty.  If I remember correctly  they should have been here a number of years, be in employment, have paid their taxes, and, apart from being here illegally, have not gained a criminal record.

This is a robust, sensible, practical and humane policy.  It made me proud to be a Liberal and to have a leader prepared to fight so publicly and persuasively for a policy which the other two parties and the  tabloids would not hesitate to deride.

It is therefore with sadness and acute disappointment that I learn the policy has been ditched.  According to a report of  press conference held earlier this week;

(Nick Clegg) said that he did not agree with Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi's call for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. The Lib Dems used to be in favour of such a policy, but they recently dropped the idea, he said. That was because the government had made a lot of progress closing loopholes in the immigration system.

The excuse given in the last sentence is a bit feeble, given that the immigrants to whom our policy would have granted asylum were meant to have been here a number of years - rather longer than any "progress in closing loopholes" the government might have made in its modest three years of office.

I have the greatest respect for Nick Clegg.  I do not believe he is an opportunist simply interested in power. No one would join the Liberal Democrats if that were their priority.  Indeed I understand that Nick was virtually offered a safe Tory seat whilst working for Leon Britten, then one of the UK's EU Commissioners.  Were he motivated by a lust for office he would have taken it, rather than the much harder road of  holding a Liberal Democrat seat.

I can only suppose he is being badly advised: by some party apparatchik who is more interested in the findings of focus groups than in Liberal Democrat principles.

Monday, 1 July 2013

State-owned banks.

Both Lloyds TSB and the Royal Bank of Scotland ( RBS) failed in the private sector and had to be rescued by  massive injections of  government money..  So we, the public, now own 39% of Lloyds TSB and 81% of  RBS.  Astonishingly our government, rather than planning to do something constructive with the two banks we now, serendipitously, own, intend  to return them to the private sector in which they failed.*

 Here are two suggestions:

  •  Our 39% holding in Lloyds TSB could well be used to introduce elements of commercial democracy, with  employee, customer and community representation on the board, and a remit to widen the goals of the bank beyond short-term shareholder value and profit maximisation.
  •  RBS could be split into a number of regional banks charged with the priority of providing low cost investment capital to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in their areas.

We understand that Lloyds TSB is ripe for re-privatisation in the very near future.  (Presumably George Osborne is anxious to get hold of some "one off" income in order to make his borrowing figures look less dismal), but the sell-off of RBS  may be delayed for some time.

Since in this life it is not often that we can both have our cake and eat it, I hope that Liberal Democrats in government have agreed to a quick sell off of Lloyds-TSB as a quid pro quo  for a  a constructive form of continued public ownership for RBS, the details of which they are working on at this very moment.

*A fascinating article by John Lanchester in the latest edition of the London Review of Books (Volume 35 number 13, dated 4th July, 2013) recapitulates the failures, and indeed the scndals, in the bonking system over the past decade as follows:

  1. Trading Floor Disasters: trading in credit default swaps and other bundles which were not really understood - eg the so-called London Whale of 2012 which cost JPMorgan  Chase  $6.2 billion
  2. Toxic (sub prime, self assessed "liar") loans - prime cause of the failure of the merger of Halifax (former building society) with the Bank of Scotland, and then the failure of Lloyds TSB which, with government encouragement, took over HBOS.
  3. The rigging of the LIBOR.
  4. Money laundering - facilitating sanctions breaking and drug dealing.
  5. The misselling of Payment Protection Insurance.(PPI)
Lanchester acknowledges that the first four can be explained if not excused by a "that's what testosterone-fired dealers do" if they are insufficiently supervised and regulated.  The fifth, PPI, is in his view the most serious as it represents an organised and deliberate defrauding of the banks' own customers by selling them insurances which would not be applicable to them, (essentially , to self-employed people when the "small print" specifically sated that they would not be covered in the event of losing their incomes and being unable to meet their loan repayments.)