Report on collapse of HBOS faces long delay

Regulatory reforms likely to be completed before causes of bank’s demise are ascertained
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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, The Independent 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 that it will not likely emerge until the 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 57-year-old Scot was furious at being the only man to carry the can, describing the FSA's actions in targeting him as "tokenism" and "sinister".

The view that he was unfortunate to be the only person penalised has found sympathy in the City.

Since the HBoS debacle its chief executive, Andy Horby, has found two senior roles, first at the retailer Boots, where he lasted a matter of months, and more recently at the bookmaker Coral, where the decision to make shop staff clean lavatories generated controversy.

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

Its report into RBS was overseen by Sir David Walker, now chairman of Barclays, and Bill Knight, a solicitor, chairman of the Financial Reporting Review Panel and a director of the Financial Reporting Council.

The likely delay in publication will mean the report is published after the Government's financial regulation reforms have taken effect. These include splitting the roles of the Financial Services Authority, with the Financial Conduct Authority handling financial product sales and supervising markets while the Prudential Regulation Authority polices the soundness of banks and insurers under the auspices of the Bank of England.

The RBS report was only published following pressure from the Treasury Select Committee. On Thursday the committee criticised Lord Turner, FSA chairman, and Hector Sants, the then chief executive, for what it said was their failure to see the importance of publishing such a review.

It lambasted the failure to take disciplinary action against anyone involved in the management of RBS prior to its rescue other than Johnny Cameron, an investment banker who voluntarily accepted a ban from the City.

The MPs' report was also critical of the previous FSA chairman Callum McCarthy and chief executive John Tiner, who now works for the insurer Resolution.