Fined HBOS boss makes his protest over being 'singled out'

Corporate lending chief says he was under pressure to boost the profits

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The Independent Online

The only man to be disciplined for playing a part in driving a bank on to the rocks during the financial crisis described being singled out by the Financial Services Authority as "sinister and unfair".

Peter Cummings, fined £500,000 for his role in the near-collapse of HBOS, also said he was pressured to boost profits at his corporate lending division to make up for a slowdown on the retail slide.

Mr Cummings was in charge of a vast portfolio of property loans and private-equity deals that went badly awry during the financial crisis.

The 57-year-old Scot enjoyed a high profile in the City, lending to the likes of Philip Green for his buyout of Top Shop and backing other entrepreneurs. His portfolio made up a large chunk of the so-called non-core assets being sold off by Lloyds which took over HBOS in a Government-brokered rescue.

He described being targeted by the FSA as "bewildering".

"We are not the only failed bank. There are at least four or five of them, and I find it curious that I was singled out," he said. "So someone, somewhere decided that that was the appropriate action to be taken, and it is the best part of four years later, and this is the first time that I have been asked that question. I think it is sinister and curious."

Mr Cummings spoke before Lord Turnbull, chairman of the Banking Standards Commission's sub-committee on HBOS, and Rory Phillips QC last month in private because he is ill. The transcript was only released yesterday.

He described himself as " heartbroken" about what happened, saying "I live with it every day."

He told the commission that he "made it clear to my superiors" that he was "not all that happy" about the pressure to boost profits at corporate lending: "But if you believe in an organisation, you are part of a collegiate, and you actually believe that you are part of an executive team, and if you believe that your role is there, my statement to them was, 'That's fine, gentlemen, as long as we don't have selective memory loss in the next budget round.'"

He said of former HBOS boss Andy Hornby, who took the role after Sir James Crosby stepped down in 2006: "You have a new group chief executive who really should make his mark and say, 'This is what HBOS is going to look like going forward.' Instead, he said — and I am not being disrespectful to him, because it is his call — 'It is more of the same.'"

Mr Cummings said he lacked the strength and resources to appeal against his fine. He described the financial crisis as like watching "a train crash for nine months and I could not do anything about it, so to say I put my head in the sand — I was a spectator of world events that I could not control".

p JC Flowers and Virgin are the final two bidders for the EU-mandated sale of just over 300 Royal Bank of Scotland branches on the market after a deal with Banco Santander collapsed.