TV presenter joins protest...
Investors tell Lloyds boss Blackwell: ‘You’re a liar’
Noel Edmonds outside EICC after challenging Lloyds’ chairman (image: Channel 4)
TV presenter Noel Edmonds today joined a volley of criticism of Lloyds Bank chairman Lord Blackwell who was accused by shareholders of lying over its compensation to victims of fraud.
Lord Blackwell told them the bank was making amends to those who were victims in the HBOS Reading scandal.
Addressing a packed meeting in Edinburgh he acknowledged the costly behaviour of the bank in the past, including the billions paid out in mis-sold payment protection insurance and the criminal activities in Berkshire.
“We don’t always get everything right. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes,” he said.
Regarding the scandal in the Reading branch of HBOS which led to convictions, he said: “I am glad to say following these convictions 62 people have been made offers.”
He continued to speak as a shareholder shouted “You’re a liar!”, followed by applause from the audience.
Lord Blackwell said: “We have accepted the need to make amends. We will continue to work with the police.”
But shareholders queued up to pillory the board, one woman being reduced to tears as she told of the devastating impact of the bank’s policies on her family.
TV presenter Noel Edmonds alleged the bank “groomed, pillaged and destroyed” his company, Unique Group.
He said: “Your brand values are trashed, the black horse has become a symbol of the dark forces in banking. You boasted about a landmark year, some might say it’s been more like a skidmark year.”
Lord Blackwell under pressure from TV presenter’s questions (image: Channel 4)
Mr Edmonds, who had purchased one share in Lloyds for 67p in order to attend the Edinburgh AGM, used the opportunity to rip into the company’s board as part of a long-running dispute with the lender.
During the meeting, Mr Edmonds said: “If you want to turn it into a game show, the way you treat us I would call it ‘Pointless’.
“If you want to turn it into ‘Jail Or No Jail’ you are going in the right direction. Things are very serious but I keep asking questions and you keep ducking them.”
He is seeking up to £60m in compensation from the bank and plans to lodge legal papers by the end of June. Lloyds has rejected his claims.
Lord Blackwell said: “This isn’t a show Mr Edmonds, it’s an AGM. You’ve set out one version of events on what you believe happened. We have a different version of events, we do not agree.
“You wish to pursue it in court and I’m happy to leave it to the court to look at the evidence and I’m happy to let the judge decide on the basis of that evidence what the right outcome is and I hope you are too.”
On the bank’s trading performance Lord Blackwell said it was a matter of “immense pride” that the bank had been restored to financial health. He said the bank was always achieving targets for serving small firms.
“We have consistently maintained a record of granting loan applications to nine out of ten small businesses.” He said this was against an overall lending decline of 18%.
Seven out of ten businesses referred for help are restored to health, he said.
Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio also accepted the need to learn from mistakes. He added: “We are continuing to build an organisation and a culture that consistently does the right thing for our customers.”
On trading performance he said: “It was a landmark year with the group back in private ownership. We have come a long way together..to transform Lloyds into a simple, low-risk bank.”
He said the branch network remained the biggest in the UK but would be ‘refocused’ around customer needs.
He pledged the biggest ever investment in staff training for the digital age.
However, shareholders were unimpressed with the bank’s performance and the platitudes of the board. More than 20% voted against the directors’ remuneration report, which included a £6.42 million pay packet for boss Mr Horta-Osorio.