Abbey National shamed by corrupt boss

Building societies were once considered pillars of propriety. The drive to become banks is changing that, writes Chris Blackhurst

Building societies have received a terrible warning of the dangers ahead if they persist with their drive to cease to be mutual organisations working for their members, and become thrusting, profit-driven banks.

Once, the criminal conviction of a senior executive of a major building society for fraud would have been almost unthinkable. Like doctors and lawyers, the local society manager used to be a pillar of propriety, someone to be respected and looked up to, who stood for the age-old concept of mutuality, rather than profit.

Not any more. Now, as bonuses and share options take over, the former building societies are increasingly open to the threat of fraud by their employees. Last week, in the most graphic illustration of the risks they face, a former high-flier at the Abbey National was convicted at the Old Bailey of conspiracy to defraud the building society-turned-bank of pounds 1.2m. An eight-month long trial - one of the longest-ever at the Central Criminal Court - heard how Mike Doyle, the Abbey National's former marketing services director, had taken "kickbacks" from suppliers.

In the dock with Doyle were seven defendants from marketing firms which supplied Abbey National. All eight were found guilty and will be sentenced at the end of this month.

Even by the standards of the financial sector, becoming used to scandal, the downfall of Doyle was dramatic. By the standards of the old building society industry, it was shattering.

Until three years ago, Doyle ran the Abbey National's marketing campaigns. More than that, he was the public face of the bank, often quoted in the press in connection with mortgage-rate changes. Still only 32, he was behind the bank's TV advertisements starring Richard Wilson, who played Victor Meldrew in One Foot in The Grave and was regarded as a rising star in the industry and a future contender for chief executive.

In 1993, his salary was pounds 44,700 with a pounds 5,050 bonus. Then, in the summer of 1994, the Abbey National's sales promotions manager, Gary Brown, complained that he was not being consulted about payments to some of the firms supplying the marketing department. Internal auditors examined the books and discovered invoices for work that either had not been done or made out for high sums. Among them, for instance, was a bill for thousands of promotional gift pens bearing the bank's name - no pens had ever been sent.

Alarmed, the Abbey National called in the police. They found that Doyle, who had a big say in the spending of the bank's pounds 35m advertising and marketing services budget, had been receiving bribes in return for putting through excessive or bogus invoices.

Just as shocking was the apparent alacrity with which the firms involved were prepared to go along with him. Abbey National is not a fly-by-night company and these were not fly-by-night suppliers.

One of them, Business Development Partnership or BDP, was a subsidiary of Princedale, the stock-market quoted media and design consultancy. In its 1993 annual report, Princedale trumpeted BDP's winning of the Abbey National account. BDP fraudulently misrepresented the work it had done. Two former BDP executives, Ian Zack and Tim Spillane, were convicted last week along with Doyle.

Other suppliers in the frame were Fixed Focus, where Stuart Nicholson was convicted of defrauding Abbey National, and NRG Communication, where Robert Taylor and Guy Hewitt were found guilty. Stephen Bracken from AJB Consulting was also found guilty of conspiring with Doyle.

The remaining defendant was Doyle's brother James. He acted as a middleman on his scams, funnelling the bribes into bank accounts controlled by Doyle.

Anthony Glass QC, prosecuting, said it was not possible to put a precise figure on the amount in kickbacks Doyle had received, but that at least pounds 230,577 went into accounts controlled by him or his wife.

In return, the suppliers were awarded pounds 662,910 worth of business by Abbey National in 1993 and pounds 548,964 up to Doyle's suspension in August 1994.

There was no doubting who was the main player. The judge, Peter Beaumont, said he regarded Doyle as "greedy" and the brains behind the fraud.

A spokesman for Abbey National said the bank had been shaken by the fraud and was pursuing in the civil courts the defendants and the firms involved for the pounds 1.2m. Fortunately, he added, only one employee, Doyle, had been implicated and internal auditing procedures had been tightened to prevent any recurrence.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Science Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Science Teachers needed for s...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

PMLD Teaching Assistant Required - Nottingham

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently looking to ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments