As the government limbers up to sell its stake in some of our largest banks, it might wish that the question of their exposure to derivatives allegedly mis-sold to small and medium-sized enterprises, the subject of this week’s Gazette roundtable, would go away. Estimates of these businesses’ direct and consequential loss have been revised up from the millions to the billions.
Such figures would look bad in any prospectus. Some would argue that claims against the banks should not be allowed to affect the still-fragile condition of lenders’ balance sheets. The centrality of banks’ health to the wider economy has been established dramatically.
And yet, if claims brought by businesses believing they were mis-sold costly and inappropriate hedging products are proved through the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)-sponsored review process, the ombudsman, or a court, it would go a long way to explaining why economic recovery stubbornly refuses to arrive.
After all, last year the FCA’s predecessor organisation concluded that 90% of such sales to SMEs included a regulatory breach.
However difficult, it is surely only a legal solution – the passage of claims through the three routes open to businesses – that can provide a satisfactory outcome here. Restitution would favour those who deliver growth in our economy.