Watchdog delays release of report into HBOS debacle

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The Independent Online

The Financial Services Authority's report into the failure of HBOS is unlikely to emerge until next summer at the earliest, i has learnt.

The watchdog started work on the keenly anticipated report after its decision to fine Peter Cummings £500,000 and ban him from the City for life, making him the only banker to pay a penalty for the near-collapse of the mortgage bank.

But while considerable data has already been collected, the report will be compiled "from scratch", and senior regulatory sources say that means it is not likely to emerge until next summer.

The failure of HBOS, created from the merger of Halifax and Bank of Scotland, was almost as costly and controversial as the failure of Royal Bank of Scotland. It was ultimately rescued by Lloyds in a Government-sponsored deal which tore up competition rules and directly led to Lloyds having to go cap-in-hand for a £20bn bailout from the taxpayer.

Mr Cummings' corporate loans division squandered billions in making risky loans to property developers and other projects and was responsible for a large chunk of assets deemed "non-core" and earmarked for disposal on Lloyds' balance sheet.

The view that Mr Cummings was unfortunate to be the only person penalised has found sympathy in the City. Since the HBOS debacle its then-chief executive, Andy Hornby, has found two senior roles, first at the retailer Boots, where he lasted a matter of months, and then at the bookmaker Coral, where the decision to make betting shop staff clean lavatories generated controversy.

The FSA is understood to be working closely with Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, to agree independent reviewers for the report.

The likely delay in publication will mean the report will come out after the Government's financial regulation reforms have taken effect. These include splitting the FSA's roles between the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Peter Cummings, a 57-year-old Scot, was furious at being the only man to carry the can at Lloyds, and has described the City watchdog's actions in targeting him as 'tokenism' and 'sinister'.

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