“… when it comes to unified European financial sector it only works for banks, facilitating cross-border operations. For clients and consumer protection this sector has as many holes as a Swiss cheese. A food for thought: if cross-border operations only work for banks and not for clients they should not be allowed.”
As often mentioned earlier on Icelog a group of Landsbanki Luxembourg clients have been trying to attract the attention of Luxembourg authorities as to the nature of the bank’s operations and to the handling of the bank’s administrator of their cases. Contrary to Icelandic authorities and the Landsbanki winding-up board, busy investigating the bank in Iceland and charging/suing its managers, Luxembourg – the tiny country dwarfed by its towering financial sector – has shown no appetite for any such undertaking.
Now there are two new and very different developments which might be of interest for the Landsbanki clients, all of whom are foreigners, mostly elderly people, with properties in France and Spain. Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies has drawn attention to the Rotschild bank, which also sold equity release products, causing default and loss of property, to a similar group of clients. And creditors in the long failed Luxembourg bank, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, BCCI also, like the Landsbanki Luxembourg clients, think that Luxembourg authorities are difficult to deal with.
MP Irranca-Davies raised the equity release issue in a House of Commons debate and had some harsh words for the Rotschilds: “… you have badly deviated from your core values, badly served your brand and reputation, badly served people who regarded themselves as your clients – not the clients of some intermediaries as they claim – and who are now facing penury after investing in products which your name, Rothschilds, your integrity, your values were used as a key selling point.”
Interestingly, conservative Treasure minister offered to raise the matter with counterparts in Spain and Guernsey. Should he do that someone should tell him not to leave out the Landsbanki Luxembourg cases since they also concern equity release loans.
One aspect of the equity release loans is that they have been sold by banks not operating in the country where the products have been sold. Rothschild, Landsbanki and several Scandinavian banks, all active in this business, sold the products to people in Spain and France, not from their operations there but from their Luxembourg operations. An interesting aspect, which has created a sort of vacuum around these operations: when the clients felt they had things to complain about Luxembourg authorities have not really listened as the products were not sold there; and authorities in France and Spain have so far not really taken the issue seriously since the banks were operating abroad.
This case has shown that when it comes to unified European financial sector it only works for banks, facilitating cross-border operations. For clients and consumer protection this sector has as many holes as a Swiss cheese. A food for thought: if cross-border operations only work for banks and not for clients they should not be allowed.
For anyone following the world of finance for some decades BCCI is a familar name. The bank was operating – yes, in Luxembourg for two decades from the 1970s. Founded in Luxembourg in 1972 by a Pakistani financier, Agha Hasan Abedi, it eventually failed in 1991 after financial regulators in several countries feared it was badly regulated.
It took years to get the Luxembourgians to act but when they did it turned out that its operations were not only mundane lending and borrowing but money laundering and other criminal activities. One interesting aspect, in light of development in the three failed Icelandic banks is that the BCCI administrator, Deloitte, sued the bank’s auditor, Ernst & Young. The case never came to court but was settled for $175m in 1998.
All of this has turned into a long saga, which quite remarkably is still ongoing. The latest is that some of its creditors are now fighting authorities in Luxembourg, claiming it is blocking money from creditors. Though the BCCI creditors certainly with deeper pockets than the Landsbanki clients, they are no less upset and do not intend to drop their case any time soon. One of them is dr. Adil Elias, whose story has earlier been told by the WSJ.
Quite intriguingly the two gropus – the Landsbanki Luxembourg victims and the BCCI creditors – have one thing in common: both had cases ruled on right up to Christmas in Luxembourg and in both cases those complaining lost. Maybe a coincidence – or this is the time Luxembourg courts feel is the best time to rule on “unruly” bank clients ready to take on Luxembourg authorities.
*See an earlier Icelog on this issue, with links to older coverage on Icelog.
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