What does this mean? Well, the bank have been accused of not being straight-up with their clients, concerning that high-frequency traders were using the platform, which basically means that this allowed them to trade huge blocks of shares while keeping the price of them private.
Credit Suisse have been accused of the same thing, and the NYAG will be making a formal announcement over dark pool trading, today.
The long and short of it, is that this is breaking the law, so Barclays are looking at a whopper of a fine, as well as having to get an independent body to review the way they trade. Last year, Barclays tried to have this case squashed, but obviously, they were unsuccessful.
“These cases mark the first major victory in the fight against fraud in dark pool trading that began when we first sued Barclays,” said Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general. He continued, saying that ”co-ordinated and aggressive government action” led to “admissions of wrongdoing, and meaningful reforms to protect investors from predatory, high-frequency traders”.
“We will continue to take the fight to those who aim to rig the system and those who look the other way.”
HSBC is under attack! Not from Godzilla or anything fun like that, but rather, the bank says that they have “successfully defended” themselves from an attack on their online banking service, but sadly, that means some services are disrupted today.
As such, HSBC are saying sorry to customers who have been trying to log-in today, and found that the service has been unavailable. As it is payday for a lot of people, this is a very inconvenient time for it to happen. It just so happens to be in the week when a lot of people are doing their tax returns too.
One good bit of news is that no customer details have been compromised.
A spokesperson for HSBC said: “HSBC internet banking came under a denial of service attack this morning, which affected personal banking websites in the UK. HSBC has successfully defended against the attack, and customer transactions were not affected. We are working hard to restore services, and normal service is now being resumed.”
“We apologise for any inconvenience this incident may have caused.”
This comes an outage that customers faced earlier in the month with HSBC. On that occasion, it was blamed not on an attack, but rather, on “a complex technical issue within our systems”.
Were you thinking of grabbing some of those Lloyds shares that were being put on general sale by the government? Well, you’re going to have to wait, because Gideon Osborne has decided to put the whole thing off for a bit.
Why is he doing this? Well, our beloved chancellor says that selling the final stake of the bank should wait, because of the global turmoil in the markets.
David Cameron pledged that this would be happening during the general election, and expected the sale to raise around £2bn. So, you can either assume that this is a mere postponement, or he’s up to something – your call.
Either way, Lloyds’ share price has dropped of late, and low interest rates have been hammering the banking sector.
Osborne said: ”I want to create a share owning democracy and I want to give the British people a chance to buy shares in Lloyds bank, a bank that they had to bail out.”
“It is also my responsibility to make sure we have a secure and sound economy and with these turbulent financial markets it wouldn’t be right to have the Lloyds share sale now. There will be a sale of shares [in] Lloyds but only when the time is right for people.”
“We need those markets to calm down, and then we can proceed with the sale. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people interested in buying these shares, I want to sell them the shares, but it wouldn’t be right to undertake that sale when frankly things are pretty turbulent out there on the stock markets and the global financial markets.”
RBS were hoping to start getting back on an even keel this year, but instead, have announced £3.6bn of provisions, to sort out a host of other problems they’ve caused themselves – notably, pension deficit charges, fines for bad conduct, and a goodwill writedown.
All this has ensured that RBS’ shares have dropped by over 5%, which is the lowest they’ve been since 2012.
£1.5bn has been put aside to cover the fines from the US Federal Housing Finance Agency, over more mis-selling, which will be added to a previous pot, making the provision for this particular problem a whopping £3.8bn.
They’ve also had to keep a further £500m aside for the mis-selling of PPI in the UK, which means that the banking group will be making a loss in 2016.
Thanks to a deadline being set-up to finally get the whole PPI mess sorted out, a number of banks are having to earmark money to cover penalties, such as Santander who also said that they’re going to set aside an extra £450m for expected extra claims.
“We will now continue to move further and faster in 2016 to clean up the bank and improve our core businesses”, said Ross McEwan, gaffer at Royal Bank of Scotland. “We’ve always been open about the scale of past issues facing RBS, although there is clearly much more to do.” You don’t say!
He added: “At this stage we think it is hopefully the end, and it has been a long, torturous saga for many banks. It is a good lesson for the industry on dealing with customers fairly. I am determined to put the issues of the past behind us, and make sure RBS is a stronger, safer bank. We will now continue to move further and faster in 2016 to clean-up the bank and improve our core businesses.”
PPI Deadline – if you want to make a claim, here’s the deadline and guide to what you need to do.
What with Santander putting up monthly fees with their 123 account, the competition are trying to woo customers away from them. One of them is the Co-operative Bank, who are offering an account called ‘Everyday Rewards’, that is going to pay existing and new customers £4 per month.
How do you get this money? Well, you get the reward for doing bog-standard, everyday banking with them. You’ll also need to pay in £800 per month, and stay in credit or within your agreed overdraft limit too. You’ll also have to go for paperless statements, have four active monthly direct debits, and log-in to your online banking once a month.
It seems like a lot to remember, but chances are, most account holders will do these things while on autopilot.
On top of all this, those who have this account will also get 5p every time they use their debit card (which will max out at £1.50 per month). That’s a potential of £66 per year, for nothing. Not bad.
If you prefer, you can donate your rewards to a number of charities - Amnesty International, Hospice UK, Oxfam, Refuge and the Woodland Trust.
There’s going to be a lot of competition at the moment, as the banks look to lure people away from Santander, and seeing as it is easier than ever to switch, it is worth weighing up all the rewards that will be thrown around in the coming weeks.
If the Co-operative Bank account sounds like your bag, then check it out here.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have kicked off a preliminary investigation, looking at whether or not a trader at Lloyds Banking Group attempted to manipulate the market for UK government bonds.
This is bad news for Lloyds, who have been trying to repair their reputation since it was bailed out with over £20bn of taxpayers’ money in 2008. As the government try to sell off the last of their stake in the bank, this adds a bit of gloom to proceedings.
All this follows a number of fines which have been handed out across the banking world, over the rigging of interest rates and foreign exchange markets.
Now, the FCA wants information about Lloyds traders who might have tried to bump up profits by driving down the prices of gilts during official auctions, or allegedly inflating their price when selling them on.
This comes after criticisms of the FCA, who said they weren’t going to be looking into dodgy banking culture any more, and shouts that everyone’s going soft on the banks.
According to Wall Street Journal, who broke this story, this investigation is solely focused on individual traders at Lloyds for the time being, and is not a broader, industrywide probe into the gilt market. Looks like things are going to get ugly in the banking world again.
George Osborne is to warn of a ‘dangerous cocktail’ of risks from abroad, and from higher public spending on these shores, thanks to what he’s calling a ”dangerous cocktail”. The Chancellor is worried that the UK is going to be pulled into decline thanks to economic concerns in China, Brazil or Russia, and of course, the falling price of oil and political troubles in the Middle East.
Basically, in a speech to some people in Cardiff, he’s going to warn about complacency and doesn’t want anyone thinking that we’re in the middle of a “mission accomplished” scenario.
Osborne’s speech says: “Anyone who thinks it’s mission accomplished with the British economy is making a grave mistake. 2016 is the year we can get down to work and make the lasting changes Britain so badly needs.”
“Or it’ll be the year we look back at as the beginning of the decline. This year, quite simply, the economy is mission critical.”
“Last year was the worst for global growth since the crash and this year opens with a dangerous cocktail of new threats. For Britain, the only antidote to that is confronting complacency and sticking to the course we’ve charted.”
As a complete aside, and keeping with the cocktail theme, here’s a perfectly innocent photograph of our George enjoying a drink with a lady, from when he was younger.
He’s also saying: “Yes – there’s good news here and right across the UK. That’s because we have a national economic plan that backs business and skills, and is delivering growth, high employment, and rising wages.”
“But as we start 2016, I worry about a creeping complacency in the national debate about our economy. A sense that the hard work at home is complete and that we’re immune from the risks abroad. A sense we can let up, and the good economic news will just keep rolling in.”
As for the drop in oil prices: “That is good for consumers and business customers here in Britain, bad news for the oil and gas industry, worrying for the creditors who have lent to it, and a massive problem for the countries that depend on it. Meanwhile, the political developments in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Iran, concern us all.”
“Yes, the British economy has performed better than almost anyone dared to hope. And as an issue, the economy has slipped down the list of many people’s everyday concerns. But the biggest risk is that people think that it’s job done.”
Of course, there’ll be some jabs at the opposition: “Many in our politics encourage this, irresponsibly suggesting that we can just go back to the bad old ways and spend beyond our means for evermore.”
“Though the year is only seven days old, already we hear their predictable calls for billions of pounds more debt-fuelled public spending. They reject all the reforms we propose to deliver better quality public services for less taxpayers’ money. Today I want to issue this warning: unless we finish the job of fixing the public finances, to get Britain back into the black by finally spending less than we borrow, all of the progress we have made together could still easily be reversed.”
From January 11th, it’ll be £5 a month, up from the previous £2. With a lot of people switching to the account for the high interest rate, this’ll be irritating news.
As it’ll now be charged at £60 per year, which could still be a good deal for those with a reasonable amount in their account. For those with smaller balances, this isn’t very good news at all.
So, with £2,500, at £2, you’d earn £16 after charges. With the new £60, it’ll wipe your interest and, in the end, you’ll be paying Santander £20 to run your account.
It is worth shopping around now, and we previously wrote about this, with some good tips and links to where you can compare accounts which will work for you best.
Prices on the high street are going to continue falling, which is just lovely news for those of us who like buying things. Across the board, prices saw a deflation of 2% in December, according to the folks at BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index.
This trend has been going on for two years and eight months now, and it looks like (according to those crunching the numbers) that this is going to carry on well into 2016. One of the things that looks likely to keep falling in price is oil, which hopefully means cheaper fuel at petrol stations!
As well as that, food prices in December were 0.3% lower than the same period the year before. There was a 3% drop in electrical products, as well as hardware, gardening, footwear and clothing items.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “This is an incredible run of good fortune for shoppers who’ve been preoccupied with picking up presents for family and friends, as well as themselves, ahead of the holiday season.”
“With retailers continuing to invest in price, relatively low commodity prices and intense competition a hallmark of the industry, we can expect falling prices to continue in the medium term.”
Of course, this isn’t great news for the retailers themselves, as a number of them saw a decline in full-price sales. However, they can carry on blaming ‘unusually warm weather’ as usual, while we all get to fill our boots.
HSBC are saying sorry again, after their online banking service didn’t work properly for the second day in a row. Customers are experiencing problems logging in, and business users were having all manner of trouble with the bank’s app.
Thanks to high demand, everyone who finds that the banking service is working, may find that there’s a lot of delays.
HSBC said: “Good morning, unfortunately we are experiencing further service issues with personal online banking, however our Mobile App is available.”
“We understand the inconvenience this is causing our customers and we are doing everything we can to restore service.”
They’re probably switching the Commodore 64 on and off, which runs the whole IT infrastructure at the bank. Possibly. Anyway, HSBC have said that no-one will be left out of pocket because of all this, and that they are working hard to sort everything out.
Of course, HSBC are just the latest in a string of banks and financial businesses that have had trouble with their online services. Approximately 275,000 people were affected by IT cock-ups with HSBC in summer, while RBS and NatWest customers have had a series of problems and annoyances with their services.
In addition to that, Barclays had errors in October, which saw people unable to draw their own money out.
Amazon are amping up the pressure on rival retailers, by offering a service where you can ‘pay monthly’ with them. Sounds like trouble to us, as paying for stuff on the never-never can get consumers in all kinds of bother, but if you’re good with these sort of finances, it could be just the thing for you!
Anyway, if you’re spending £400 in one go, on one item or a load of different things, you can apply to pay them off over four years, without a deposit.
It is called Amazon Pay Monthly, and it’ll launch this month, and will charge you 16.9% interest.
Amazon have joined forces with finance company Hitachi Capital, which competes with similar credit options which exist on the high street.
A Hitachi spokesperson said: “It means you can go straight from choosing a new dishwasher or fridge to accessing finance options through us, all while staying on the Amazon site.”
Basically, you can do your shopping on Amazon as normal, and when you get to the checkout, you’ll be offered Pay Monthly. Of course, they’ll have to run a credit check on you, and if you’re approved, you’re good to go.
Interestingly, Britain is the first area that this has been offered to by Amazon.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have decided that they’re not going to bother with their inquiry into the culture, pay, and general behaviour of staff in banking. Everything concerning our banks is completely fine and we’ve all been worrying about nothing. Obviously.
The watchdog were going to see if pay, promotions and incentives were a contributing factor to some of the wild misconduct that we’ve seen recently. Seeing as banks have been embroiled in countless scandals, which have seen hundreds of millions of pounds in fines being dished out, you’d think that someone might want to get to the bottom of all this?
Obviously not. Mark Garnier MP, a Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee, thinks there’s something fishy going on here, and that this might be a ‘political’ move. Talking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, he said: “There’s always been this great argument that perhaps the Treasury is having more influence over the regulator than perhaps it ought to.”
“And certainly if I was looking for a Machiavellian plot behind what’s happened here and the tone of the regulator then I suppose I would start looking at the Treasury.”
“And it’s certainly been widely talked about that the Treasury thought the regulator was overdoing it in favour of the consumer and certainly from my point of view on the Treasury Select Committee, I thought otherwise.”
Instead, the FCA are going to be working with individual companies, in the hope that there’ll be a ”cultural change”. Sounds like they’re going to pop round for a brew and say ‘has there been a cultural change yet? There has! Oh good – see you when we see you.‘
Mark Garnier continued: “I think it remains to be seen whether this is a cancellation or a delay, but I fear it probably is a cancellation and I think probably we’re missing an opportunity to be able to look at what is best and worst practice across the banks.”
As an aside, and in no way a suggestion of anything untoward, honest, this decision follows FCA boss Martin Wheatley – brought in because he was an uncompromising regulator – was basically sacked by George Osborne, and at a time when some UK banks are threatening to move their headquarters overseas.
Looks like our Chancellor is gently trying to steer everyone away from hating the banks, and getting rid of Wheatley – who is very outspoken when it comes to our financial institutions – is phase one of that.
In a statement, the FCA said: ”There is currently extensive ongoing work in this area within firms and externally. We have decided that the best way to support these efforts is to engage individually with firms to encourage their delivery of cultural change as well as supporting the other initiatives outside the FCA.”
The largest drop has been in London, where the study says that the real value of average pay has dipped by 23.2%. Following that was a 16% drop in the South East, then the East Midlands (15.7%), Yorkshire and the Humber (14.9%), North West (12.4%), West Midlands (11.8%), East (11.5%), Wales (11.3%) South West (10.6%), Scotland (6.7%) and North East (5%).
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: “While we have seen a growth in the number of workers as the population has grown, average pay has simply not kept pace with inflation.”
“Since 2008 the cumulative inflation has been 20.6%. During this period, pay in the UK has gone up by 7%, which has left the pay of the average full time worker down by 13.6% in real terms.”
“This has had a deflationary impact on the economy and has also affected the tax take by the Chancellor to pay for essential public services. In the autumn statement, the Chancellor predicted that the economy would grow steadily each year to 2020 when it would be 12% bigger than now.”
“Workers in the UK will want to see that growth translating into pay rises above inflation to make up for lost ground.”
Apple have paid £235m to Italian authorities, to settle a dispute with them over allegations of sidestepping tax. The tech behemoth was being probed after allegedly failing to declare over a billion euros (£700m), according to a report by Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.
A spokesperson for the tax office said that the report was accurate, but didn’t give any more details on the case. Either way, this all came after negotiations which have been going on for months, and Italian authorities asked for the full amount relating to tax years from 2008-13.
Apple Italia is part of the tech giant’s European wing, which is based in Ireland and has one of the lowest levels of corporation tax in the EU. Of course, these arrangements (or similar) are being enjoyed by a number of huge companies, and is part of a big controversy about the taxes paid by multi-nationals.
Google and Starbucks have been under a lot of fire for their arrangements, which are legal, but to many, are irritating.
Apple’s gaffer Tim Cook is not impressed with all these accusations. Recently, he referred to the furore as “political crap” and was adamant that “we pay every tax dollar we owe.”
This won’t be the last of these court cases we see, that’s for sure.
However, the NAO have said that there are improvements, but HMRC haven’t published estimates of where these improvements are coming from, making it “inherently challenging for HMRC to understand whether it is using the best mix of measures to tackle tax fraud in the long term”.
“HMRC has met its targets to raise more tax revenue in the short term. It now needs to consider whether its overall strategy is designed to achieve the best long-term outcomes,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.
“We will be evaluating HMRC’s performance in tackling different types of tax fraud in more depth. As we do so, we will be looking for further improvements in the way HMRC uses data and analysis to understand the effect of its actions in both the long and short term.”
There’s another worry too – the NAO have voiced concerns that HMRC had looked at easier prosecutions in a bid to meet targets, rather than solve the problem in hand.
This follows the news that HMRC are doing a huge overhaul, closing 170 regional offices and replacing them with fewer, bigger hubs.
“HMRC is cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion with a wide range of civil and criminal interventions to collect and protect revenue for public services, steadily reducing the tax gap to its lowest-ever level,” said the Revenue. Over the next decade, we’ll see if their plan has worked out or not.