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Crash Bank Wallop The Memoirs of the HBOS Whistleblower Paperback – 6 Nov 2015
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About the Author
Paul Russell Moore was born in Bristol, England on 30 October 1958. He was educated at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire and studied law at Bristol University. After becoming a barrister he became the in-house lawyer in the product development department of Allied Dunbar in December 1984. He left in December 1988 to join Kleinwort Benson as its in-house lawyer but was only there until April 1989 when he was headhunted by start-up firm Ellastone. In February 1990 he moved to American Express subsidiary Acuma as General Counsel and Head of Compliance and was there until February 1994. In February 1995 Moore joined accountancy firm KPMG becoming its top-performing Partner. Moore joined HBOS in July 2002 as Head of Risk in the Insurance and Investment Division. He was appointed to the role of Head of Group Regulatory Risk at the end of 2003. He had formal responsibility for the bank's policy and oversight of executive management's compliance with FSA regulation. It was during 2004 whilst conducting reviews of the bank’s sales culture and selling practices that Moore and his team uncovered mis-selling and other unfair customer sales tactics. However, when Moore reported these findings, as his job demanded, he was fired on 8 November 2004. Moore announced his intention to publish a book about the HBOS whistleblowing and subsequent events called Crash Bank Wallop. The book was co-authored by Mike Haworth, edited by Guy Mankowski and published in November 2015.
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I found this book too long, too personal and with too much detail. I was primarily interested in the Paul Moore’s whistle-blowing about HBOS and its aftermath. It seemed to take a long time in getting there and when I got there, there was too much information. However, he makes many valuable observations (4). On a second reading it began to make more sense. The detail will be of interest to students of office politics, those involved in the financial industry and aspiring barristers. This book could be considered a sort of historical reference. Christians may also find this book of interest. Paul Moore is a Catholic and Christian ethics play a large part in his life, in his approach to his work and in this book.
The first chapter describes the author’s pre-emptory dismissal from HBOS and his immediate reaction. He then goes back to his education, family background and early career. He describes joining HBOS and his promotion to Head of Group Regulatory Risk, when he begins to speak truth unto power. There is a lot of resistance but he thinks his message is getting through. Then they sack him. After unsuccessfully challenging his dismissal HBOS offered him a generous financial settlement with a strong gagging clause. Defeated, he signed. As the financial crisis erupts, he starts to talk to the media, particularly the BBC. Then, assured of Parliamentary immunity, he gives evidence to the Treasury Select Committee (5).
THE BOOK: The book is published by New Wilberforce, an organisation that the author co-founded (See Comments for website address). The sentences are short and readable, with a distinct journalistic style. This may be due to the co-author Mike Haworth. The main text of the book has 557 pages. The book does not end very cleanly and Paul Moore mentions a part 2 of his memoirs. The inclusion of emails, letters and documents often makes the book seem more like an 18th century epistolary novel.
(1) HBOS Halifax Bank of Scotland was created from the former Halifax Building Society and the Bank of Scotland. The Halifax provided the retail experience and the Bank of Scotland the corporate experience.
(2) He says he has always been a meticulous record keeper: "As a barrister myself, I’d practised law for 12 years of my career and as my children will attest, I am a stickler for the evidence. As a result, I was and still am a meticulous record-keeper and so finding all the key evidence that supported my case wasn’t difficult. I had kept every document, email and note I took and in a highly organised fashion. I still have every document I wrote on my first desktop PC which I got when I joined American Express in 1989." (page 289)
(3) Instead of a reference to a footnote or end note, the book is full of direct references to the website. For example "The original document and its 19 supporting documents here:" followed by the web address. For the website address see this review’s Comments.
(4) For example on Payment Protection Insurance (PPI): "We now know that HBOS and all the other companies in the market place continued to mis-sell PPI aggressively and knowingly for many years after this. As a barrister, I would say that this provides very strong evidence of criminality by the Board of HBOS and should be investigated by the relevant authorities." (page 207) and on corporate hubris: "As for the executive, my practical experience was proving that the greatest risk to any organisation was senior executives with psychopathic/sociopathic attributes. Sadly, there seemed to be a lot of this sort about. When it comes to big business it’s not the cream that rises to the surface but the exact opposite. There’s no bigger risk than this in any organisation. The book Snakes in Suits explains the research in detail." (page 131/132)
(5) See page 416 where he reproduces his first telephone call to the Treasury Select Committee. "My name is Paul Moore and I think I may have some important evidence to give to you in advance of your meeting next Tuesday with the ex-chairman and CEOs of HBOS and RBS. I was Head of Group Regulatory Risk at HBOS and was dismissed by James Crosby for trying to prevent the bank from taking excessive risks.".
Whilst the larger story is of interest and the subject of how whistleblowers are dealt with is alarming, the intimate details of one man's dismissal story and subsequent legal shenanigans are far less so. The £800k+ settlement and self declared high return on share options surely softened the impact.
Had his investigations unearthed the real issues within the commercial bank and the bank's liquidity management he could rightly state that he had preempted the banking crash. He did neither but obviously meant well in his actions.
A shame because hidden in this amateurish publication is an important story and lesson for society as a whole.
Paul Moore comes across as someone who delights in being different, contrary and difficult but is then surprised that people don't take to him. After problems at KPMG, HBOS and then released (but can't say why) from Marsh, the impression is of man that is a right pain the butt. Whilst that might not stop him being good at risk, it does make you wonder how much of that influenced others opinions of his advice.
As noted by other reviewers, the book strays into unnecessary descriptions of things (the exact specifications of car for example) and his penchant for taking a holiday what seemed like every 3 months.
He concludes with a promise to write Part 2 of his memoire and a plea to join his 'crusade' ... a bit much I felt.