UK - Peter Cummings, former HBOS corporate division CEO, accused the Financial Services Authority (FSA) of "sinister tokenism" after the UK regulator published a report claiming he failed to "assess, manage or mitigate" risks based partly on exposure to risky property loans up to 2008.
In a 90-page judgement, the FSA - which issued a lifetime ban against Cummings - claimed the former banker failed to institute a "commensurately robust level of control and oversight" of a portfolio vulnerable to the economic cycle during his tenure between 2006 and the end of 2008.
Among the regulator's findings was that Cummings's division's exposure to commercial real estate had been significantly higher than those at other major UK banks. HBOS's exposure increased from 52% (£44.4bn) of the loan book in 2006, when Cummings's tenure began, to 56% (£68.1bn) in 2008. Moreover, it blamed Cummings for increasing the concentration of 30 largest credit exposures from 15% in 2006 to 23% two years later.
"The heavy focus on property and risk capital meant that the portfolio was highly exposed to changes in the economic cycle," said the report. "In benign market conditions, with robust property values and equity returns, the portfolio could be expected to perform strongly…[but] the level of leverage in the portfolio increased both the risk and the quantum of potential losses."
Although the report cleared Cummings of "recklessly" breaching regulations, it suggested there had been a reckless approach to already inadequate credit controls in competitive markets. "The competitive pressures in these markets meant the corporate division often had to increase its exposure on transactions that were already rated sub-investment grade in order to avoid losing the customer to a competitor," it said.
The report acknowledged - among a series of mitigating factors - that Cummings had attempted to improve the control framework.
In a statement issued this morning, Cummings decried what he claimed was "an extraordinary Orwellian process" by which the FSA had come to a "grotesque" decision to investigate Cummings alone among HBOS's senior management.
While the report acknowledged that HBOS's senior management bore collective responsibility, Cummings in addition blamed government, regulators and other banks.
"The fact that I am the only individual from HBOS to face investigation defies comprehension," he said. "The FSA has never had to prove its case to anyone other than itself, and sits safe in the knowledge that few individuals can afford to take it on." Cummings has given no indication that he will appeal the FSA decision.
Today's report frees the FSA to begin work on a planned report on the bank's 2008 collapse. Cummings called for an independent - rather than an FSA - inquiry the bank's failure.