Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Only the little people follow the rules

Have you been mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance? Maybe you should check your old loan, or mortgage, statements to be sure. If you don't have the paperwork, could you use a credit report to track down who lent you what, when? If you did have PPI, can you honestly remember whether, many years ago, you were told that the PPI was optional, or about the terms, conditions and exclusions? Can you even remember whether or not you had it at all?

Wouldn't it all be a lot simpler if the people who mis-sold the insurance just came right out and admitted they'd bent the rules, taken everybody for mugs and sold them a pup, because nobody could be bothered to stop them?

Have you been mis-sold a Brexit that's going to cost you a lot, but deliver nothing? In this case, it's way easier to work out that you were scammed, because the scammer's been boasting about how he outwitted the regulators in the national newspapers:
 ...“We were just cleverer than the regulators and the politicians. Of course we were.”

He [millionaire insurance salesman and Brexit Backer, Arron Banks] didn’t break the law, he says. He “pushed the boundary of everything, right to the edge. It was war.” And later: “You’re looking for a smoking gun but there’s a smoking gun on every table! And no one cares. No one cares!”
And the number of shits officially given about him subverting our democracy really does seem to be zero, even when "pushing the boundary" of the law crossed over into outright criminality:
Newsnight's evidence suggests that at least some of the political energy running up to Brexit appears to have been paid for unlawfully...

...about 20 car insurance salespeople employed by Mr Banks at Catbrain Lane, Bristol - the hub of his Eldon vehicle insurance empire - were paid to travel to Rochester, in Kent.

They then drove elderly UKIP voters to the polls, before staying the night at a Premier Inn and making the return journey the following day...

...[Mr Gavin Millar QC] said: "It was unlawful on the part of the third party who organised the concerted assistance; Mr Banks in this case.

"If they did it and incurred those costs without the authority of the agent, as it appears they may have done, that's called an illegal practice and it's a criminal offence."...

...It is very unlikely that any action will be taken against UKIP, Mr Reckless, his agent or Mr Banks because a criminal investigation must start within a year of any possible offence.
And what about all the cash Banks ploughed into Brexit? Nobody has definitively proved that any of it came from Russia but, then again, nobody really knows where any of it came from:
In September 2013, the man who bought Brexit – Arron Banks – was in trouble.

For the past two years, financial regulators in Gibraltar had been scrutinising his insurance under-writer, Southern Rock. They had discovered it was keeping reserves far below what was needed.

This was a serious problem. Banks claimed he had already provided £40 million to plug the hole. He also told the regulator he would step down as a director, but has since been required to find an eye-watering £60 million in extra funding.

A year later, these financial worries seem to have completely evaporated. Banks had begun buying diamond mines, investing millions into chemical companies and wealth management firms, setting up loss-making political consultancies, and most famous of all – funding the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

One question remains though. If Banks was in such a tight spot in September 2013, how did he manage to be so generous the following year?
Alastair Sloan and Iain Campbell looked at the publicly available records, but the source of the money behind Brexit remains secret. Maybe the ultimate source is some mystery donor(s)/investor(s) whose identity has been laundered into invisibility. Perhaps it's a house of cards built on theoretical  money which looks real, thanks to some feat of creative accounting or financial engineering.

At this stage I don't know, you don't know, nobody seems to know. All we do know is to take Arron Banks's word with an entire cellarful of salt, given that the insurance salesman (who's not currently permitted to run his own insurance company) has a distinctly Paul Nuttall-style approach to CV writing:
It is here the cracks in Banks’ biography start to appear. Banks has claimed he was promoted and rose to lead his own sales team at Norwich Union – now part of Aviva. However, Aviva say they have no record of Banks ever having worked for Norwich Union. He has also claimed to have worked for Warren Buffett around this point in his career. We asked Buffett about this. He replied. "I have no memory of ever hearing of the name Arron Fraser Andrew Banks. He certainly never worked for me." Further checks across the Berkshire Hathaway group, made by Buffett’s office, yielded no evidence he had ever worked for any of his subsidiaries. In a letter delivered by his lawyers, Banks declined to comment on either of these points.
Wherever Banks's Brexit funding came from, the level of official incuriosity over how our politics is paid for is staggering. Far from being a "popular revolution", the Brexit coup looks increasingly like another game played by wealthy members of a political elite who know that they're born to rule and to flout the rules that govern the lives of lesser people like you and me. There are a couple of details from that New Statesman interview with Banks that now seem prophetic, both of Banks's entitled sense that he could break rules the little people live by with impunity, and of his conviction that it was perfectly OK for people like him to con people into acting against their own interests:
At 13 he was sent to a “third-rate” boarding school, Crookham Court in Berkshire ... getting expelled for an “accumulation of offences” that included selling lead filched from the roofs of school buildings. He accepts that his expulsion was entirely justified. It would have happened much earlier, he says, except that the struggling institution needed his fees...

...His “lack of educational attainment” ruled out university, so he returned to Basingstoke, where he sold paintings, then vacuum cleaners, then houses. “I was quite good at persuading people to buy things they didn’t want to buy,” he says.
We were warned, nobody with any official clout cared, and now he's screwed the whole country.