MPs are calling for a new investigation into controversial loans sold by banks to local authorities after it emerged that, in 2014, City regulators had highlighted “unfair” penalties attached to some of the deals agreed by councils.
According to an internal review unearthed by a Freedom of Information request, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) looked into complex lobo loans, which were taken out by hundreds of councils across the UK, and concluded that a proportion of them may have been “unfair” due to their large exit fees.
The Labour MP John Mann yesterday said that both the FCA and the big-hitting Treasury Select Committee – of which he is a member – should now investigate the issue.
“Councils are unsophisticated investors – they are easy targets. This is a matter for the FCA,” Mr Mann said.
“When [the new FCA chief executive] Andrew Bailey arrives, he should be robust in dealing with this.
Fellow Labour MP Clive Betts said Parliament should examine the relationships between the banks, brokers and consultants who sold the loans. Mr Betts added that the Communities and Local Government Committee, which he chairs, could also re-examine local authority lobo lending.
The Independent this week reported how councils are said to be paying £30m in excess interest costs on lobos. British banks have allegedly made gross upfront profits of £300m on the deals.
The loans have also come in for criticism because some consultants paid to offer advice to the councils were also paid by organisations setting up the borrowing.
The councils criticised for taking out the loans insist they saved money for taxpayers, while the banks involved say they lost money on the loans.
The lobo loans – lender option, borrower option – typically run for around 50 years. But the lender has the option, on certain dates, to impose new interest rates. At that point the borrower can agree or choose to repay the loan. When the Financial Conduct Authority looked at a sample of the lobo loans’ terms in 2014, it found that a “handful may have unfair terms [in other words, big repayment penalties)”.
However, the FCA’s remit – determined by Parliament – means it does not typically regulate such commercial lending, and it concluded that lobo loans did not pose a general market risk.
Mr Betts said his Communities and Local Government Committee had shelved its inquiry into local authority lobo lending, but would look at the issue again if new evidence came to light.
Business news in pictures
Business news in pictures
1/50 United goin down
Manchester United's absence from the Champions League hurt more than the fans' pride last year - it also dented the bottom line. Revenues at the New Uork listed club dipped 8.8 per cent to £395.2m in the year to June, triggering a £1.2 million loss after broadcasting and sponsorship deals dried up. The club said it was now looking to raise $400m from a share issue.
2/50 Star Wars boosts economy
Production of the next Star Wars movie has brought an economic impact of some £150 million to Britain, according to company accounts. The seventh movie in the series, The Force Awakens, will be released in December.
3/50 Natalie Massenet Leaves Net-a-Porter
The Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet decided to quit the online fashion retailer during "a summer of reflection" that included a spectacular 50th birthday party on the Almalfi coast.
4/50 I'll keep working, says Mayer
The chief executive of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, said that she was expecting twin girls in December. She said she would "approach the pregnancy and delivery the same way as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout". In 2012, she took two weeks off when her first child was born.
5/50 World's richest lose $182b
Warren Buffett, the world’s third richest person, lost $3.6bn in last week’s market slump. Fears that China's economy is slowing took many indices into correction territory. The turmoil has wiped $182 billion off the wealth of the 400 richest billionaires, according to research by Bloomberg.
6/50 City for sale
London City Airport was put up for sale by the American hedge fund Global Infrastructure Partners, which also owns Gatwick and Edinburgh airports. It is expected to fetch around £2 billion
7/50 Kicking up a skink Down Under
An Australian court has overturned approval for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in north Queensland, based on concerns over the impact of the project on the endangered yakka skink (pictured). Standard Chartered is under renewed pressure to stop financing the deal
8/50 Scope to do more in the City?
Damien Hirst's 7m statue, Charity, has been installed in the shadow of the Gherkin in London. It is based on an old Scope collection from the 1960s and has provoked a debate about the City and disability. The Lord Mayor of London says the City does not employ enough disabled people.
9/50 Thousands more take a look at Sky
Drama and football are a winning formula for Sky, which has recorded its best growth for 11 years, gaining 124,000 UK customers in the past quarter. Sky paid £4.2bn for Premier League rights, but also has 35 dramas planned, following successes such as the ‘The Enfield Haunting’ (pictured) with Timothy Spall.
10/50 FirstGroup suffers over lost lines
FirstGroup, the bus and rail operator, is paying the price for losing a string of rail franchises last year. Rail revenue will be “substantially lower” in 2015 after some big franchise losses, including ScotRail. The division lost out on tenders for the East Coast and West Coast (pictured) mainlines, which went to Virgin Trains.
11/50 US retail rush hour slows down again
US retail sales unexpectedly fell in June as households cut purchases of cars and a range of other goods. Sales fell 0.3 per cent, while economists had forecast a small rise.
12/50 Blockbusters aid Pinewood expansion
Pinewood Studios revealed it is having to turn away major films until the five new stages it is building come on stream next summer. The group still saw operating profits rise from £4.9m to £5.8m in the past year, which saw it host the new Star Wars and Avengers films (Scarlett Johansson, pictured, stars in ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’) as well as the latest Bond release, ‘Spectre’
13/50 Rogue trader freed
Kweku Adoboli, the former UBS trader who was convicted of the UK’s biggest banking fraud, has been released from jail after serving half of his seven-year sentence. He was imprisoned in 2012 on two counts of fraud that resulted in losses of £1.4bn, the largest trading loss in British banking history
14/50 Burberry’s autumn ad campaign
Burberry is launching its autumn ad campaign today with a cast of models including the singer Tom Odell and the actress Holliday Grainger
15/50 Sneak peak at console battlefield
Videogame titans Microsoft and Sony vied for attention ahead of the industry’s annual E3 conference yesterday, giving fans sneak peaks of the latest games for their Xbox and PlayStation consoles, including Sony’s new ‘Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’
16/50 High street shops hit by exodus
The number of Britons out shopping has fallen for the second month in a row. High streets saw 1.5 per cent fewer shoppers and shopping centres 2 per cent fewer in May compared with a year ago. Only out-of-town retail parks saw a rise, with 1.4 per cent more visitors, the British Retail Consortium said. Overall shopper numbers fell by 1 per cent.
17/50 Argentina hit by strikes
Daily life ground to a halt in Buenos Aires yesterday amid a 24-hour general strike protesting against moves to limit pay rises and increase taxes.
18/50 Duty rises blamed for beer woes
Beer sales are still “fragile” after a decade of “devastating” duty hikes, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. The industry lobbyists said sales in pubs and shops were up 1.5 per cent in the past year, but fell by 0.8 per cent in the first quarter. Sales have fallen 24 per cent in the past decade.
19/50 New Look in push for men
New Look is planning a menswear push after poaching Christopher Englinde, H&M’s menswear chief. Like-for-like sales at the fashion chain rose 5 per cent
20/50 Court halts Airbus insider trading trial
A French court has quashed an insider trading case against seven current and former Airbus executives as well as Lagardère and Daimler, who were investors in the plane maker. Judges said the trial was dropped as they had all been cleared by France’s market regulator AMF, and it would have breached safeguards against double prosecutions
21/50 Alibaba hits back over ‘fake’ claims
Alibaba has hit out at Gucci’s owner, Kering, for “wasteful litigation instead of the path of constructive co-operation”, after the French luxury giant filed a lawsuit in New York alleging the Chinese online retailer allows sales of fake goods on its websites. Gucci unveiled its Fall-Winter 2015-2016 women’s range at this year’s Milan Fashion Week
22/50 Hats off to Ralph Lauren
The upmarket US clothing company Ralph Lauren saw sales climb 1 per cent to $1.9bn (£1.2bn) in the quarter to 28 March. The company said it opened several stores across key markets around the world, fuelling momentum for its luxury accessories business. However, net income decreased to $124m, compared with $153m in the same quarter last year, partly as a result of exchange-rate impacts.
23/50 With this ring… arts sales jump
Sotheby’s raised $380m (£241m) in its New York contemporary art sale, a day after rival Christie’s sold a Picasso for a record $179m, with the auction house describing bidding as a “rush for art”. The top lots included Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘The Ring (Engagement)’ Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
24/50 Brewdog’s dead cat bounce
Brewdog parachuted taxidermy “fats cats” holding its latest prospectus out of a helicopter over the City of London as the Scottish brewer looks to drum up publicity for its latest “punk” fundraising. The craft beer group has already raised £5m of the £25m it is seeking from investors to fund a new brewhouse and set up a US operation
25/50 Change at the top for Alibaba
Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba replaced its chief executive yesterday. Daniel Zhang, chief operating officer, will replace Jonathan Lu. The move follows the share price briefly dipping below $80 this week, its lowest since its New York flotation in September.
ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
26/50 Put that light out
New York City officials have been informed by the American Government that the Big Apple’s dazzling neon billboards violate a 2012 highways ruling and must be taken down. The city could forfeit up to $90m (£59m) in federal highway money if it fails to comply. New York is debating getting an exemption from the rule.
27/50 Lionsgate wants the lion’s share
Lionsgate yesterday announced plans to finance and co-invest in up to 25 British independent films over the next four years. The Canadian-US entertainment company has previously invested in such UK films as A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet
28/50 Tillman planning a ‘new Jaeger’
The fashion entrepreneur Harold Tillman (centre) has spoken out against the way Jon Moulton’s Better Capital has run Jaeger since taking it over from him and declared he would start a rival business to serve disappointed Jaeger customers. Mr Tillman said turnover at the group had fallen and losses widened since the private equity firm took over.
2011 Getty Images
29/50 Aer Lingus: end in sight to Irish talks with IAG
Aer Lingus, the Irish carrier being bid for by British Airways’ owner IAG, yesterday said it is hopeful talks between its suitor and the Irish government will conclude soon. Ireland owns a 25 per cent stake in the airline, which posted a €48m (£35m) first-quarter loss yesterday but said its long-haul business had performed well
30/50 Weir sheds more jobs in oil slump
Slumping orders for oil and gas projects in the wake of the oil price collapse have forced the engineer Weir to cut another 125 jobs. Since the start of the year, the US oil-rig count has more than halved, sending orders in Weir’s oil and gas division down 23 per cent in the first quarter. Weir has already shed 1,300 staff in the past year
31/50 Williams F1 team drives into the red
Formula 1 team Williams drove £34m into the red for 2014 after the worst season in its history. A fall in prize money for 2013 – paid a year in arrears – meant the Frankfurt-listed group went into reverse after a £12m profit the year before. But Williams said this year’s figures would be better after it finished third in the 2014 Constructors’ Championship. Its driver Felipe Massa, pictured in Bahrain, is 5th in this year’s driver’s contest
32/50 Rivals roar as Harley stalls
A strong dollar allowed US motorcycle-maker Harley-Davidson’s foreign competitors to undercut its prices in the first quarter, hurting its sales and market share and prompting it to lower 2015 shipment forecasts. The news sent its shares down 10 per cent in early trading
33/50 Climate changes for BP
BP will be more accountable for its role in climate change after 98 per cent of investors backed a resolution to make it more transparent on the issue. BP’s annual shareholders’ meeting was held in London yesterday and attracted a protest against offshore oil drilling.
34/50 Car sales lift in Europe
Demand for new cars in Europe soared last month, particularly in Spain and Portugal where sales increased by more than 40 per cent on March last year. Meanwhile UK sales were up 6.1 per cent on March 2014, according to the European Automobile Manufacturer Association.
35/50 Ricci heir guilt of tax fraud
Arlette Ricci, the heir to the Nina Ricci perfume and fashion fortune, has been convicted of tax fraud by a Paris court, after hiding millions in an offshore HSBC account. Ms Ricci, 73, was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay a €1m (£72,000) fine.
36/50 Camden set for a makeover
Teddy Sagi, Camden Market’s new Israeli billionaire owner, has appointed Mace as project manager to oversee the redevelopment of Camden Lock Village, with 170 homes as well as shops and offices in the north London district.
37/50 All aboard the iron ore train
Australia is reportedly examining how BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto shift billions of dollars in iron ore profits through low tax hubs in Singapore.
38/50 Shell’s Arctic plans under fire
Greenpeace activists have climbed aboard a Shell oil rig in the Pacific Ocean bound for the Arctic. They plan to camp under the rig’s main deck in protest against the oil giant’s plans to restart drilling off the coast of Alaska. The group said the six protesters would occupy the underside of the Polar Pioneer’s main deck but would not interfere with the vessel.
Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace
39/50 GoDaddy off to flying start in New York
GoDaddy shares jumped 34 per cent as they started trading on the NYSE Wednesday, valuing the website group at more than $5bn (£3bn). The firm, which manages 59 million web domains – a fifth of the world’s total – raised $460m. It sponsors race car driver Danica Patrick (pictured with chief executive Blake Irving) and is backed by private equity firms KKR and Silver Lake
40/50 The first lady of high street banks
Shriti Vadera, a former adviser to Gordon Brown, has become the first female chairman of a UK high street bank, succeeding Sir Terry Burns at the helm of Santander UK. Baroness Vadera will be paid £650,000 and work alongside Santander’s new CEO, Nathan Bostock
Paul Morigi/Getty Images
41/50 Sterling returns for Compass
Compass could see £30m added to its annual profits, thanks to the strength of the pound. The catering giant, which serves up strawberries and cream at Wimbledon each year, said underlying revenues are up 5.5 per cent in the first half, while gains from sterling against the euro, yen and Brazil’s real are set to offset any weakness of the pound against the dollar
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
42/50 Serco sells Australian rail unit
Serco has sold its Great Southern Rail to the Australian private equity firm Allegro Funds in a £2.5m deal. The disposal of the luxury business, which runs tourist trains such as The Ghan (pictured) across Australia, is part of the outsourcing group’s move to focus on core businesses under its new chief executive, Rupert Soames
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
43/50 Italian Retailer Yoox eyes Net-a-Porter
The Italian internet retailer Yoox in the latest contender to swoop in with an offer for the luxury fashion business Net-a-Porter that could value the London-based firm at £1.3 billion
44/50 Li Ka-shing buys O2 for £10bn
Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa has finalised a £10.25bn deal to buy the UK mobile business O2 from Spain’s Telefonica. Hutchison, the Hong Kong conglomerate that already owns Three in the UK, entered exclusive talks with Telefonica in January.
45/50 Jaguar climbs high in the City
A Hollywood stuntman in a Jaguar XF crosses the River Thames by highwire to promote the latest model. The stunt was supported by 34mm-wide carbon wires.
46/50 Pubs get protected
New rules have been announced to mark Community Pubs Day today which protect local pubs and give communities a greater say in planning processes.
Oli Scarff | Getty Images
47/50 Tesco jet still left on shelf
Tesco has been forced to cut the price of its Gulfstream G550 jet by £3.5m in an attempt to shift it. The retailer has already sold three of its fleet of five jets since October but has cut the price of the 14-seater jet from $35m (£23.5m) to $30m. It also still has a Hawker 800XP.
48/50 Uber called to account in Paris
Uber’s Paris offices have been raided by French police as part of an investigation into its UberPOP service that lets anyone offer taxi rides. The French headquarters of the US taxi-booking app have been targeted by authorities as part of investigations into the feature, which is not available in the UK, that allows non-professional drivers to sign up
49/50 P&G on the scent of a sale?
Procter & Gamble is believed to be looking at a sale or IPO of some of its beauty brands, which range from Herbal Essence shampoos to Olay creams and Boss perfumes (as advertised by Sienna Miller, pictured). Shares in the US consumer products giant rose 2 per cent on the prospect of a sale yesterday, even though P&G said the report, on Bloomberg, was “speculation”
50/50 Blackpool pier is on sale for £12.6m
Blackpool’s central pier has been put up for sale by its owner Cuerden as the attractions organiser looks to restructure its operations. The group is asking for offers of about £12.6m for a package of three piers – including Blackpool’s 19th-century central and southern piers and a third in Landudno in Wales
“Some councils may have entered into bad deals, but we didn’t get evidence to show there was a systematic problem with lobos,” he said.
However, he added: “I am still quite angry with the so-called financial advisers … they are paid by the organisation setting up the borrowing. That is not acceptable in my view.”
Lawyers said some councils could have legal grounds to make a claim for breach of contract against their advisers over managing conflicts of interest or their obligation to advise on suitable products.
“If councils are not looking at this they should be,” said Janine Alexander, a partner at the law firm Collyer Bristow. “If they don’t act quickly, they may run out of time.”
She added that the high exit fees identified by the FCA could also be challenged. “The problem is, councils are stuck with these things and have to pay a prohibitive penalty to get out. But there is a question about whether they are enforceable.”
- More about: