Staff and shareholder complaints dominate Lloyds AGM

The board of Lloyds Banking Group have been handed a letter calling them to act on evidence alleging fraud and to set aside around £3bn as remediation.

The document was provided by David Laity, a minority shareholder and former CID detective, at the bank’s annual general meeting (AGM).

Following complaints by other shareholders in the questions section of the meeting, Laity said there was a “disconnect” between some bad apples at the bank and the the board, offering to act as a liaison for the victims of historic fraud.

He stated: “I’m here today on behalf of at least 100 customer and shareholders at Lloyd’s Bank who have a grievance in one form or another.

“I am a professional investigator, I can tell you some of the claims you are discussing around Bristol are being resurrected by the police because they were not properly investigated first time around – and I can assure you I have a plethora of criminal matters that are covered in a lot of these cases.”

Insider has seen a copy of the letter submitted, with the alleged criminality relating to the ‘Op Meadow’ files and “impropriety” at the bank’s Bristol-based business support unit. This details 96 victims of fraud and their cases, along with a leaked Avon and Somerset Police report and an opinion by a former police lawyer.

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Laity went on to suggest that the cases could relate to around £3bn in damages, based on the information he has studied and that there is a “very small minority in senior management that are bad apples”.

He continued “I’ve identified some, I need your help to stop it in its tracks now”, before asking whether the existing board would issue the same commitment Lord Blackwell gave at a previous AGM to work with the police force and “stamp out fraud”.

Current Lloyds chair Robin Budenberg responded that he would work with the group and accepted the documentation.

This followed a former HR worker at Lloyds, who complained about recent rounds of redundancies at the bank, accusing senior staff of getting “golden handshakes”.

Another complaint came from the owner of a Scottish pub who claimed his livelihood was wrecked by a Enterprise Finance Guarantee Loan, and called for the board to meet him to settle the matter.

Professor Nigel Harper, a banking professor and HMRC inspector, offered the board help to sort out the issues, stating that he has witnessed the “good, the bad and the ugly that banking has become”.

He accused Lloyds of spending billions on “lawyers fighting the indefensible” and disagreed with the use of potential shareholder capital to pay fines, stating “we did not authorise these payments – fines equate to crime”.

Responding to earlier protests outside the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, where the AGM was being held, Budenberg said the company plans to prioritise its junior staff.

“Our colleagues, especially at a more junior level, are impacted by the rising cost of living and our 2022 pay budget will seek to prioritise spend towards these individuals,” he told shareholders.

“All awards are determined by the board’s remuneration committee following extremely careful consideration against our policies scorecard.”

One of the Unite union’s members, Rachel Boothroyd, commented during the meeting: “We want to know how you can justify paying £1.4bn to shareholders … and significant pay rises for non-executive directors, while giving staff a pay rise which is well below current inflation levels as they try to survive the worst drop in living standards since the 1950s.”

Budenberg responded: “I would say the board has taken a pay rise of only 1%.

“We did have a pay settlement of 3.6% this year – we very much focus that on lower-paid people so that everyone in the organisation got a pay increase of at least £1,000, which we felt was important given the current circumstances.”

He added: “Obviously, we continue to think about how our staff are faring in this difficult time.”

Boothroyd said a lot of staff “in their pay are seeing a rise of £30 to £40 a month, which as we know, goes absolutely nowhere near inflation, the increase in household bills, food expenditure and national insurance rises”, adding that “it doesn’t even touch the sides”.

Budenberg said the £399m the bank pays in bonuses is lower than many other major UK banks.

“However, we know that as we deliver the next phase of our strategy it’s vital that we’re able to attract and retain talent and reward our colleagues appropriately,” he went on. “Our bonus awards are directly based on a percentage of our underlying profit.”

In provisional results from a shareholder vote, 96% of votes were cast in favour of the company’s remuneration plans for top managers.

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