£600m Lloyds banking takeover trial set to begin

Lloyds Banking Group site in Halifax
Lloyds Banking Group site in Halifax

SHAREHOLDERS are gearing up for a long-awaited trial this week as they seek £600m in damages from Lloyds Banking Group and five former executives over claims they were misled during the acquisition of HBOS.

Opening submissions are set to be given at the Royal Courts of Justice tomorrow, marking the start of a 14-week trial brought by the Lloyds/HBOS Shareholder Action Group.

The group – which represents about 6,000 former Lloyds TSB shareholders – is seeking around £600m in damages in the case against Lloyds Banking Group, former chairman Sir Victor Blank, ex-chief executive Eric Daniels, former chief financial officer Tim Tookey, one-time director of retail banking Helen Weir and ex-director of wholesale banking George Truett Tate.

It is expected that each defendant will be cross-examined during the trial, which is expected to shed further light on the internal decisions that drove the bank’s controversial acquisition of HBOS which had corporate bases at Trinity Road, Halifax, and in Edinburgh.

HBOS saddled Lloyds with lots of toxic assets stemming from risky bets made by HBOS on commercial property during the boom years.

Lloyds was later forced to take a Government bailout worth £20.3bn, which has been blamed in part on the takeover.

A spokesman for the action group said: “We will finally have our day in court after nearly 10 years and expose the injustice done to Lloyds TSB shareholders who were duped into rescuing a defunct HBOS.

“The trial will show how much the director defendants knew about how bad HBOS was, that they concealed crucial information about HBOS’s financial position, and that they should not have recommended the deal on the basis that they did, nor should they have allowed the deal to go ahead on those terms.”

The spokesman said they hoped the trial would also “get to the bottom” of the role played by the UK Government, Bank of England, UK Listing Authority and the now-defunct Financial Services Authority (FSA) in “relaxing competition rules” and “pushing through the deal”.

The claimants are comprised of around 300 institutional shareholders – including pension funds and investment funds from the UK, Europe, Asia, Canada and the US – and around 5,700 retail investors who say Lloyds TSB failed to disclose the true financial state of HBOS when it launched the acquisition.

A spokesman for Lloyds - which still employs around 6,000 staff in Calderdale - said: “The group’s position remains that we do not consider there to be any merit to these claims and we will robustly contest this legal action.”