SJ Berwin lawyer takes Bank of England to task over Barings

SJ Berwin consultant Jonathan Stone has slammed the Bank of England for “evasion” over issues relating to the Barings collapse and is preparing to launch an independent inquiry for creditor clients.

Stone, acting as chair of the Barings Perpetual Noteholders Action Group (BPNAG), says the bank “appeared reluctant to answer entirely relevant questions concerning the collapse of Barings”.

He also says the action group is concerned that issues relevant to them will not be addressed by the bank's Board of Banking Supervision, due to report on the collapse before the end of this Parliamentary session on 20 July.

The BPNAG represents more than half the noteholders of holding company Baring plc, including individuals and companies that lost £100 million in the Baring collapse in February. Stone is not a noteholder.

In correspondence with bank governor Eddie George dated 22 May, Stone detailed nine questions and informed him the BPNAG had raised cash to fund “an in-depth investigation of a whole range of issues”.

George replied on 13 June that it would be “inappropriate” to comment or respond to the questions, as many of them had already been asked by individual noteholders.

He added: “I would merely observe that I see no reason for a further inquiry in addition to that presently being conducted.”

Stone's reply on 27 June said: “…It is clear that you have misunderstood the determination of the perpetual noteholders…and my own determination.”

He invited George to reconsider his “dismissive response”, adding: “Your response must lead to the ineluctable conclusion that the bank may have matters which it has no wish to disclose, which, I am sure, can hardly be the case. After all, the Barings affair demands complete openness.”

Stone's nine questions are:

– What advice did the Bank of England give to HM Treasury about the action which should be taken by the bank in relation to Barings once the disaster in Singapore had been revealed?

– Apart from its role as grantor of the banking licence to Newco, what was the specific role of the Bank of England during the court proceedings before the Vice Chancellor?

– Why did the Bank of England give its blessing…to the deal by which ING acquired certain assets of the Baring Group?

– Given that a foreign-based commercial organisation could put together an offer to take over parts of the Baring Group, why could a UK-based rescue not have been put together?

– Given that natural justice demands that no man should be judge in his own court, would the Bank of England object if an independent public enquiry into the collapse of Barings was set up; and if so, why?

– It is understood that HM Treasury may have waived usual charges to taxation which ordinarily would have been incurred by ING as a result of the acquisition of certain assets of the Baring Group. What advice, if any, did the Bank of England give to HM Treasury on this?

– The notes' offering memorandum states that current Bank of England requirements would not allow the purchase or

redemption of the notes without prior consent of the bank. Given its supervisory role, can you please confirm that the Bank of England was aware of the issue in advance and gave its consent to it?

– What information, if any, did the bank have concerning the use of the funds raised?

– Having regard to the notice to institutions authorised under the Banking Act 1987 of March 1994, can you please tell me on what date the relevant meetings were held during 1994 and who was present?

Stone warns: “We will not rest until we have secured the information we require from the Bank of England, the administrators and any other parties with information vital to achieving justice and recompense for our members.”