1991: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
Whilst some investment bankers may get away with what often looks and smells like theft, one commercial manager at a local HSBC branch in Norwich was recently sent to prison for two years for theft and false accounting. It seems that he moved money from healthy business accounts to help businesses that were struggling with repayments on loans that he had agreed. It is also reported that he also siphoned off some of the money to fund some relatively minor expenses. He pleaded guilty at Norwich Crown Court to theft and false accounting over a 7-year period from 2004-2011. He falsified customer bank statements to cover his tracks. He admitted that he moved money to disguise bad loan decisions that he had made to failing clients. The Court learned that he benefitted by more than £45,000 personally, but the HSBC losses were closer to £200,000.
This is an unusual case, one where it appears that the theft was mainly used to help ailing businesses. One might ask why? I would suggest that this may have something to do with internal commercial targets set by the Bank, which presumably includes an element of “negative scoring” for loans that default. To my mind, this is probably the root cause of the crime, which is based upon a culture of sales targets rather than good lending or indeed good banking. It would be wrong to single out HSBC here, as a similar problem is faced by most bank staff. It is also concerning that it took so long for the Bank to identify the problem and indeed several businesses from whom he stole, failed to identify the theft at an early stage. This is more evidence of the need to check your bank statements very carefully. I have to admit to being somewhat perplexed by the time it took to notice this crime, one would have liked to have thought that an Accountant or business owner would have been able to spot a glaring hole in their business account. As a footnote he asked for a further 46 other offences of false accounting to be taken into consideration.

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