Sunday, 13 January 2008

Many questions for Northern Rock

First let me declare an interest, I am a demutualisation shareholder in Northern Rock. I had planned to sell my shares in June to finance a house move but the move fell though. Not long after the company issued a profit warning but the market advice was stay put.

"Analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods said that Wednesday's announcement reflected "a period-specific strain in 2007 and does not indicate the business model is not working." Profits outlook hits Northern Rock

I left for holiday off the back of stable but not stunning results and a nice dividend announced and waiting for me in the autumn. In late Aug I though about selling again but with no threats on the table and no pressing need for the money I thought I would wait until the announced dividend was paid and take stock again.

The rest is history. On paper I am about £5000 poorer than I was 12 months ago.

So as we move into the end phase there are a few questions that still need to be answered and most of them relate to the governments handling and culpability in the affair.

Why was no stock exchange announcement made by the company about its financial position between the 14th August and the 14th September 2007 when clearly the company had already anticipated the financial crisis and had been in discussions with the Bank of England?
14th August : Bank of England governor Mervyn King is alerted to the potential impact of the global credit squeeze on Northern Rock's business in a phone call with officials at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Treasury." Timeline:Northern Rock banking crisis


Why were declared shareholder dividends suspended when staff pay rises were still paid in full, and secret bonuses for 173 staff totalling up to £17m allowed to proceed?

"SENIOR staff at Northern Rock are receiving secret bonuses of up to £100,000 a year as part of an incentive scheme" Key Northern Rock staff receive secret bonuses

Why does the Chancellor continue to blame the bank for risky trading practices when those same trading practices were approved as sound by the oversight regulator?

"we recommend investors look through the near-term interest rate strain and at a business model that can clearly deliver superior returns at lower risk," they continued." Analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Profits outlook hits Northern Rock (July 2007)

Why did the Bank of England and the Chancellor fail to use the time from the 14th Aug when knowledge that a government approved method of funding a bank was under pressure to the 13th Sept when it failed to put in place policy that would have protected savers the majority of savers and hence preempted the run on Northern Rock in the first place.

"Our system for dealing with the insolvency of banks and deposit insurance is markedly inferior to other countries." Professor Mervyn King.


Nationalisation now seems to be the only answer my remaining shares will quite likely become worthless and as a taxpayer I will have an hefty increase in national debt.

However even as late as the middle of August action could have been taken by Government and the Bank of England to reduce the severity of this crisis.

As a taxpayer I want my pound of flesh as shareholder in a highly regulated industry I want a pound of bones too.

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