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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A quote from the Chairman

“Good corporate governance practice is an important ingredient in creating and sustaining shareholder value, and ensuring that behaviour is ethical, legal and transparent.”
 Barclays Group Chairman Marcus Agius
 
Please follow the link below:
 
 
Do you believe the banks behaviour is 'ethical, legal and transparent'?
 
We don't

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Letters to the Chairman

Below is the transcript of a letter I wrote to Marcus Agius, Chairman of Barclays Bank, John Varley, Chief Executive Officer and Bob Diamond, CEO in waiting & Head of Barclys Capital, on 14th October 2010. The letters were sent separately to each individual.

Dear Sir,

I have been compelled to write to you direct following the way my husband has been treated by your bank. You may well be aware of the 'Birakos Situation' as I know he has written several letters to you in the past, however, I strongly believe that you need to hear how the actions of Barclays Bank impact the lives of families, not just the individuals or businesses concerned.

My lack of understanding as to why Barclays took the action it did has led me to search for answers over the past eleven months, even so far as accompanying my husband to the various meetings he has had with members of your organisation. I still have not had a satisfactory answer as to why Barclays Capital felt the need to foreclose on my husbands loan, especially when the loan was servicing the debt and significant funds were trapped in the loan account. In the face of a global recession, caused by the banking sector, this portfolio was profitable so why was this action taken?

John Varley stated on the 'Today' programme this morning that Barclays prioritises customer care, I would dispute this; your commitment to 'Treating Customers Fairly' is clearly something that Barclays has simply signed up to but is loath to practice. The core principles of practice that I have come across state that Barclays 'considers the impact of strategic change' on customers, that 'clients interests always come first', that the 'highest ethical standards' be maintained and that Barclays 'aspires to the timeless values of integrity, trust, fairness and openness'. Well, what happened? I honestly believe that members of your organisation set out, as far back as December 2008, to engineer the demise of my husbands portfolio, they then identified a purchaser for the portfolio with extremly close links to your institution, and, although they appointed a receiver to the portfolio, this was simply a formality to ensure that the sale was done 'properly' in law and ensure that their 'intermeddling' in the sale was hidden. At no time during this process, despite numerous requests from his advisors, was my husband given the opportunity to discuss his portfolio with Barclays Capital staff in a face to face meeting.

There has been a huge erosion of public trust in the banking sector recently, and I can quite understand why, yet the public is completely unaware as to the unethical and probable illegal mechanisms employed by Barclays in an attempt to balance its books and move forward. I would ask you how my family is to move forward from the position we have been left in by the bank? To the officers discussing the Birakos portfolio in Barclays Capital 'Birakos' is just a name on a piece of paper, yet we are people; a hard working and determined family who will stop at nothing in an attempt to ensure a secure future for our children and to rectify the wrongs that have been done to this family by your bank.

As a wife and mother I will do anything in my power to protect my family and get them through this difficult period. Barclays Bank has caused the loss of a portfolio my husband worked to build over twenty years and intended to bequeath to his children to ensure their future security. Instead, our four children, aged 2, 7, 10 & 14 are in danger of losing their home and the stable environment they once knew is fractured.

I would be grateful if you would take time out of your schedule to meet with me personally and explain your organisations actions. I have had eleven months of delay and evasion from your officers and want nothing more than this sorry affair to be over. The only way I feel I will be able to obtain some resolution is by discussing everything with the person who heads the organisation concerned and that is you; your officers are too busy trying to cover their backs to give me answers and, to date, I have had no satisfactory explanation that satisfies me as to the reasons why this profitable portfolio was sold.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

No response or acknowledgement from either Varley or Daimond but a response arrived from Marcus Agius dated 20th October which read as follows:

Dear Mrs Birakos

Thank you for your letter dated 14th October 2010 in which you express your concern over the way you feel your family has been treated by Barclays. I note that I have also received a letter from your husband, to which I have responded separately, albeit in similar terms.

I am sorry for the distress that this matter has caused to you and your family, and that you feel that it has not been resolved to your satisfaction.

I understand that your husband has met with my colleagues many times to discuss his business and its relationship with Barclays. Given that the concerns raised to date involve allegations about Barclays' conduct in relation to your husband's business, and that there is an ongoing dialogue between your husbands solicitors and Barclays' legal advisors, it is not appropriate for me to comment on the allegations which you and your husband have raised.

Yours Sincerely

This was somewhat confusing; the Chairman has clearly been misled about an 'ongoing dialogue' which implies a two-way conversation, but as far as we were concerned, the conversation was flowing only one way, from us to them. I responded with the following....

Dear Mr Agius,

Further to your letter of 20th October, I shouild like to raise the following points:

Primarily you state that there is 'an ongoing dialogue' between my husband's solicitors and Barclays' legal advisors. I am unsure as to whether you have been misinformed or we are mistaken but, as far as we are concerned, Mr Oliver Gayle informed our legal advisor that the lines of communication were now closed. I would hope that it is we who are wrong and that dialogue may continue in an attempt to settle this matter once and for all as well as to avoid both publicity and unnecessary expenses, financial and emotional, involved in a lengthy court battle. Please be kind enough to clarify the postion.

I should also like to re-iterate the fact that, despite the several meetings that have taken place between both parties, we have never been given any answers to our questions; in fact, such questions have been altogether avoided or ignored. This leads to immense frustration which only acts to fuel my desire and ability to keep fighting to preserve my families dignity, integrity, future and emotional well-being.

I am somewhat surprised that you feel it 'inappropriate' to comment on the action taken by the organisation that you lead. My previous letter requested a meeting with you as a means for me to understand why; I feel it would be entirely appropriate for you to discuss what has happened with me, albeit on a without prejudice basis. Your bank has caused my family immense suffering and anxiety over the past eleven months and has a moral obligation to justify both the action taken and the chosen form of implementation.

I look forward to hearing from you soon,

I didn't hear from him but instead our legal team received a call from Oliver Gayle,  Barclays' lawyer who clarified that the lines of communication were indeed still open but the bank were not really prepared to discuss anything...perhaps the weather would be an option?!

It was also requested that we refrained from involving the Chairman in our communication with the bank as he wanted to avoid any involvement in potential litigation. This request had been made on other occassions and indeed it was made clear to us in one meeting that the more we 'rocked the boat' by writing to the Chairman, making Subject Data Access Requests etc, the more difficult our lives would become. Nice attitude...good customer relations there!

Finally, why is the Chairman reluctant to become involved when the actions of the company he heads are questioned? Surely he has a responsibility to his customers to ensure that they are satisfied and, when they are not, to address the issues raised and attempt resolution, especially when the organisations Code of Conduct has been so blatantly violated by senior members of his staff.

As 2010 draws to a close the nonchalant attitude of the bank only fuels our determination to fight harder in 2011. Although I am packing up the contents of our family home which we must now leave, I have some positives from which I draw hope: a meeting with our local MP is looming, who having told us he would not be in a position to help, has now arranged to meet and discuss our situation early in 2011, perhaps the whisper of a BBC investigation has helped to change his mind...






Is what happened to us an example of how Barclays makes its money and is in a position to pay out such large bonuses.....?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

'Mouthwatering...'

13th December 2009, 'a rollercoaster year for UK commercial property...But prices bottomed this year and are rising.' Why then, did Barclays chose to sell our portfolio at that time having waited a year since their initial plan to gain control of the portfolio in Dec '08? Was it because they knew they could get a good price precisely because the market had turned and was rising? Morrough states that yield plays an important role in determining why the commercial property market was rising when the economy was still gloomy; 'his fund yields just under 8% - mouthwatering...'; the Birakos portfolio was producing a yeild of 8.28% in July '09 according to the CBRE valuation...how mouthwatering is that?
Note Morrogh's statement that 'the ability of the manager to sniff out bargains is paramount.' Our 'bargain' had been 'attractively valued' by Threadneedle’s 'preferred valuer' CB Richard Ellis who also acted as the Receiver in the portfolio sale. Yet CBRE's pessimistic valuations of the Birakos portfolio were at odds with it's published 'Monthly Index' for November '09 which showed the strongest total returns (3.4%) in the history of the CBRE Monthly Index and that 'all property capital values rose by 2.7% over the month'. David Wylie, Head of Economics & Forecasting at CBRE said "The turn around in investor demand since the middle of the year ('09), has seen a surge in the performance of commercial property, with year to date total returns now turning positive...The very strong returns seen in recent months seems destined to continue into next year, given the strength and depth of current investor demand."






A further example of the close relationship between the bank and Threadneedle, in fact Barclays holds 20% of the total equity raised. Threadneedle has an 'exclusive arrangement with Barclays Wealth', 'already has deals lined up' and sees opportunities in retail...
Threadneedle have confirmed ownership of the properties but have declined to comment further on their relationship with either Barclays or CBRE or on how they were initially made aware of the pending portfolio sale.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

It's not what you know...

'Our experience, resources and contacts allow us to select the most appropriate and attractively valued properties for our funds' - quote from Threadneedle's commercial property investment philosophy.

'Preferred Valuer': CB Richard Ellis Ltd - Threadneedle UK Property Trust Interim Report & Accounts, November 2009

'Barclays aspires to the timeless values of integrity, trust, fairness and openness' - Barclays' Aims & Goals

It is our opinion that the bank appointed CBRE, Threadneedle’s 'preferred valuers', to 'attractively' value our portfolio at £6-8 million less than values given by two alternative independent valuers. CBRE was then appointed as Receiver to sell the portfolio to Threadneedle at a very 'attractive' price.

The bank is a close 'contact' of Threadneedle, having given Threadneedle £330 million of 'resources' in the later part of 2009 to 'invest in properties' on its behalf.

Barclays (Bank) - CBRE (Receiver) - Threadneedle (Purchaser)

It just goes to show, it's not what you know, it's who you know!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Quickly & Quietly...






To engineer a default is not easy under normal circumstances however, in the midst of a global economic crisis, it's not hard. I will write about how it's done soon but today I thought I should demonstrate how Barclays Bank went about selling our portfolio within 24hours.



In October 2009 we tried to withdraw £150,000 of our own cash to fund an extension of a vacant unit in central Bristol. According to Knight Frank Commercial Valuers, this would increase the value of the property from £560,000 to £1,240,000 - quite a jump. A tenant was in place, ready to sign a contract once the extension had been agreed. 


£420,000 of our own money was sitting in our portfolio account but the bank refused to allow us access, they had no legal right to do this, our contract terms had been fulfilled. This was our surplus cash, overspill from rent after the loan repayments had been met.


Within three weeks there was a turnaround and the bank sent a team of surveyors to visit the whole portfolio on the pretext of 'finding ways to increase the rental income even further'. Unbeknown to us, these surveyors were actually viewing the portfolio and carrying out Due Diligence on behalf of the new purchasers who had been given £330 million by Barclays to purchase property on its behalf. Small world isn't it?

Had our portfolio not been so profitable, it would not have been so appealing to the bank. They would have left it to struggle on as there was no reason to sell; ours was strong, profitable and had a healthy yield, having lost only 6% of its value in the past year compared to an average of -19.3%, so was very tempting to any potential purchaser, especially one with such close links with the bank and all the cash and contacts it needed to purchase quickly and quietly. Easy.

Sound like a stitch up to you?