LETTER: Are banks money shops or business partners?

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The Independent Online
From Mr Stanley Best

Sir: Your balanced and sensible leading article ("Bank rage hits Oxfordshire", 5 September) does not go far enough. Had Julia Verity and Richard Spindler taken the advice of a solicitor before embarking on their venture, rather than relying on the bank, it is likely that they would not now be in their present predicament.

I hope that the courts will go further in bringing banks to book. Three years ago I argued, as counsel for a bank customer who had entered into a disastrous business venture, that given the knowledge that the bank had as to the creditworthiness of her partner in that venture - also a customer of the same bank - the bank had a duty to advise my client to get independent advice before borrowing from the bank to finance the joint enterprise. The Court of Appeal disagreed with me, holding that when my client entered the bank it was up to her to look after herself.

A solicitor would have discovered the true position, which the bank - bound by a duty of confidentiality to its other customer - could not reveal to my client. In fact, of course, she had no suspicion of the true position and so believed herself adequately protected by the willingness of the bank to provide finance.

Yours faithfully,

Stanley Best

Guildhall Chambers

Portsmouth, Hampshire