Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Cable 'wants probe into HBOS bans'

Sir James Crosby has been described as the 'architect of the strategy that set the course for disaster' at HBOS

The Business Secretary has ordered an investigation into whether the three former HBOS directors blamed for the banking group's collapse can be banned as company directors for life, it has been reported.

Vince Cable has asked his officials to see if there is enough evidence against Lord Stevenson, the former HBOS chairman, Sir James Crosby, the former chief executive, and Andy Hornby, his successor, to start a formal probe under the Company Directors Disqualification Act.

Mr Cable told The Sunday Times it was the first step in a process which could lead to the three - who have so far not faced formal sanction - being barred from acting as company directors.

The move comes in the wake of a damning report into the collapse of the bank by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards published on Friday.

It found Sir James was the "architect of the strategy that set the course for disaster" and held primary responsibility for the collapse along with Lord Stevenson and Mr Hornby.

Their "toxic'' misjudgments led to the bank's downfall and £20.5 billion taxpayer bailout at the height of the financial crisis and they should never be allowed to work in the financial sector again, according to the influential commission of MPs and peers.

Mr Cable told The Sunday Times: "It's quite a legalistic process. I can ask (officials) to look at whether the companies investigations branch take action. We do have this power which I have begun to initiate."

Sir James stepped down from his role as a member of Bridgepoint's European Advisory Board on Friday but remains chairman of the car credit company Money Barn and a senior independent director for Compass, one of the country's largest catering firms, according to company spokespeople, as well as a trustee for Cancer Research UK.

Mr Hornby's current employers, Gala Coral, have said he has their "complete backing" as chief executive. Sir James and Lord Stevenson have so far retained their titles, though the Royal Bank of Scotland's disgraced former boss Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood.

Peter Cummings is the only former HBOS director to have been penalised by the Financial Services Authority, after being fined £500,000 and banned for life from working in the City last September.