A group of banks that are involved in creating a dispute resolution scheme for small businesses hurt by banking scandals, have been accused by the property leader and Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake of orchestrating a “dirty tricks” campaign against him.
Mr Hollinrake, the property industry’s most well known politician and Chairman of Hunters, has alleged that a group of unnamed banks carried out a “personal attack” against him by briefing two news organisations about an alleged conflict of interest.
The Times and The Financial Times reported that Mr Hollinrake had been told that the banks were surreptitiously challenging his “personal integrity” through the alleged briefings, apparently relating to a lending dispute between Hunters, the estate agency that he co-founded in 1992, and Clydesdale Bank.
Mr Hollinrake, 55, said that at least two banks believe that the personal dispute is enough to question his position on a steering group which has been set up to deliver the dispute resolution service.
UK Finance, the City trade body, and various banks are working with small business representatives on the dispute resolution service, which is intended to be a voluntary, industry-funded ombudsman for companies hurt by lending disputes.
Hollinrake told The Negotiator that: “I have been an outspoken critic of some elements of the banking sector, particularly those at the top who have presided over the most disgraceful treatment of thousands of SMEs.
“I have also engaged constructively to find solutions and compensation for the victims. It is therefore very disappointing, but unsurprising, that banks have resorted to dirty tricks to discredit me by a blatant misrepresentation of the facts.
“The banks imply that I am using my role on the steering group of the new Dispute Resolution Service for personal gain. This is completely untrue. Any claim that Hunters may make against a bank will be through the courts, not the DRS. Nevertheless, for good order I disclosed this interest and recused myself from any related work in this area. Sadly, this is pretty typical of how some banks operate when anyone shines a light on malpractice. They are not used to being held to account but will have to get used to it.”
Resignation plan is not true
In a letter to Lewis Shand Smith, Chairman of the steering group, Mr Hollinrake said that the news organisations had been wrongly informed that he was planning to resign from the steering group over the issue, saying, “This may well be a desperate attempt to silence me and prevent me from fighting for justice for small and medium-sized enterprises and for individuals within the banking sector to be held to account,” he said.
Mr Shand Smith said, “Kevin Hollinrake disclosed his conflict of interest to me and the independent steering group in March this year. In my role as [chairman], I asked him to recuse himself from any discussions relating to that conflict.”
Nikki Turner, director of SME Alliance, said, “It is very disappointing that any of the contributors . . . would attempt to malign any member of the group, which threatens to destabilise such a worthy cause.”
As Henry Ford said: “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”