Crash Bank Wallop

By John Ellis

I hope one reason we have a lay Assembly Moderator is to increase the chances of Moderators having personal experience of the discipleship dilemmas that arise for an employee. Most employees work for organisations where they feel they are only a small cog in a large machine and their influence is limited. Sadly, surveys report that most local churches in Britain give very little help to Christians wrestling with the ethical challenges that arise at work. When I visit churches, I notice the intercessions are much more likely to focus on those who are ill than on those facing almost impossible burdens at work.

P1020264So it was a pleasure to be invited to the launch of a striking new book Crash Bank Wallop. This is the story of Paul Moore, the former head of risk management at HBOS – the megabank that resulted from the Halifax merging with the Bank of Scotland. Several years before the bank crashed disastrously in 2008, he warned its Board that the bank was relying on practices that were ethically and financially profoundly misguided. He was fired.

The book describes the turbulent journey into which he was then catapulted. It included suicidal depression. It included blowing the whistle publically on former friends and colleagues and shouldering the consequences. And in his mind all he had done was the job HBOS had been paying him to do.

While the details of the products HBOS sold may be complicated, the essence of the issue is starkly simple. Should an employee always tell the truth? Or are there times when saying what others want to hear is good enough?


Whistleblower Paul Moore

Paul Moore is clear that the vast majority of HBOS staff were people of integrity wanting to do the right thing. Nevertheless he now sees how the ethos of the bank had drawn staff away from their personal values towards a sick internal culture. When a culture becomes embedded in any large organisation, be it a company or indeed a Church, it takes clarity and courage to criticise it.

When Paul first told his wife that he had been sacked and his career was ruined, he was astonished by her reply: “It’s all part of God’s plan for you.” A Roman Catholic believer, he found solace for the dark years that followed in Job and the Psalms. Today he also believes God has used the personal disaster for good and that he is richer in those things that are beyond price, even though his income may be much smaller.

Maybe we should spare a thought and a prayer for someone who is currently grappling with issues at work that offer no easy answer.


3 thoughts on “Crash Bank Wallop

  1. Michael Jagessar

    Thanks John – for sharing this. Telling truth with clarity and courage is always costly – in the end worth it. Paul Moore’s integrity could not be have been ‘sacked’!

  2. Alban Thurston

    Dear John, Many thanks for reflecting on Paul Moore’s book and the dreadful experiences he endured as a price for his conscience.

    Most remarkable to me in Paul’s faith-based recovery from the darkest of places is the fact that Paul wishes now to devote his considerable energies to improving the ethics of work and to campaign towards radical change in corporate governance. His New Wilberforce Movement has prophetic vision, and will discomfort the powerful and hypocritical in some of Britain’s fraught, morally compromised work places. I pray for the success which the New Wilberforce Movement undoubtedly deserves.

  3. Nikki Turner

    I was delighted to attend Paul’s book launch yesterday and I have to say that what moved me most was Paul’s family and how they have stayed close and weathered the storm. As a victim of HBOS Reading and also a director of SME Alliance, an organisation that supports SMEs abused by the financial sector, I am so aware that when disaster strikes, it strikes entire families and sometimes with catastrophic results. I was so pleased to hear Paul’s wonderful children reading excerpts from his book and giving their comments. For banks, the consequences of the so called ‘credit crunch’ has merely been a question of getting rid of loyal staff, crippling SMEs and shuffling figures around. The reality to society has been so much more severe and we need books like Crash Bank Wallop and people like Paul Moore to expose the real consequences to us all. You don’t know how bad wholesale abuse in the financial sector is until it happens to you – and when it does, it affects everyone you know and love. Well done Paul and well done the Moore family for fighting on when you could so easily have turned away.

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