After much soul-searching, I have decided to post this story on The Rainwearist in order to bring attention to a truly awful set of experiences which both my husband and I endured back in the 1990’s.
|NatWest is not everyone's cup of tea|
Back in the early 1990’s, National Westminster Bank USA (NatWest USA) was part of the US operations of British banking group, National Westminster Bank, plc (NatWest plc) headquartered in London.
Hailing from the UK, my husband knew NatWest plc well and therefore willingly chose to be a business customer of the bank here in the United States.
During that time, the United States was recovering from the early 1990’s recession which had caused a significant downturn in the New York City region commercial real estate market and as a consequence the commercial construction (building) industry, two areas of business where NatWest USA had significant exposure causing the British owned bank to endure significant financial losses.
In February 1992, my husband learnt from several contacts within NatWest USA that all was not well within the bank. Part of the problem (according to the banks employees) was the proliferation of delinquent commercial loans allegedly being hidden (or disguised) from both senior management and government regulators at the banks commercial business division (CBD) units located out on Long Island to the east of New York City.
Soon after, my husband was asked by a group of "American" NatWest USA employees (in the capacity of a concerned "British" NatWest customer) to contact NatWest plc officials in London and advise them that the bank had some major problems involving distressed commercial loans which required their undivided attention sooner rather than later. To put it in simple terms, there was sufficient grounds to believe that there was alleged internal fraud within the bank.
|NatWest employee secret rendezvous location on Long Island|
|Former problematic NatWest lending office on Long Island|
Believing it was the right thing to do, my husband agreed and shortly after made contact with a senior NatWest plc executive (Anthony W.) posted to the British banking groups 175 Water Street offices in New York City which as it happens would later be occupied by another disgraced financial institution; insurance giant American International Group (AIG).
After making contact, my husband carefully explained to Tony W., (in the capacity of both concerned customer and unpaid advocate of NatWest USA employees) his understanding of the situation which primarily involved the alleged hiding of bad loans from NatWest executive management and banking industry regulators.
Surprisingly, and to the detriment of NatWest Plc shareholders, despite my husbands best and above all most sincere attempt to help the British bank in America, he was rebuffed by Tony W., and later other NatWest plc senior management in London which included the banking groups then Chief Executive. Worse, those employees who had first approached my husband including David L., were later identified by the banks rogue management, ostracized and eventually forced out of the bank.
The bad guys at NatWest USA had won the day.
Interestingly, over twenty years later we now know that NatWest both in America and at home in the United Kingdom in the 90's was living on borrowed time which would eventually result in the British parent bank selling its New York/New Jersey retail banking subsidiary to Fleet Financial Group (now part of Bank of America) in 1996 for allegedly "$ billions" less than its true book value ("one can only wonder why!")
This was followed by the British parent bank NatWest plc being acquired by the infamous Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) a few years later.
But that’s not the end of the story as far as I am concerned. Far from it.
Clearly my husband’s good intentions embarrassed (and for reasons best known to themselves), angered a lot of senior executives at NatWest on both sides of the Atlantic back in the 1990’s. "Pride taking precedence over honesty is a very bad thing, particularly when you are a banker".
We also now know, that several senior executives at NatWest USA (which in 1996 morphed into Fleet Bank and in 2004 became part of Bank of America) set about a campaign of retribution against my husband (and several years later myself). This included allegedly tampering with our accounts, intentionally ignoring written requests for information required in order to facilitate moving our accounts to other financial institutions and intentionally losing files containing amongst other things loan documentation and lien releases. Conduct which certainly goes far beyond mischievous behavior and into the realm of outright criminal conduct.
In desperation, my husband contacted bank officials again and even British government officials in London (which included a member of the British parliament who would later become Chancellor of the Exchequer) seeking their help. But unfortunately, no one was interested in listening let alone trying to help. Pity, because if they had they would have had a first hand opportunity to see a precursor of the widespread dishonesty and deceit within the British and American banking industry which a decade or so later would subject the economies of the western world to the worst recession since the great depression of the 1930’s.
As matters progressed from bad to worse, my husband eventually approached federal and state law enforcement officials here in America after he learnt that employees at Fleet (which by now had completed its acquisition of NatWest USA) were allegedly using unlicensed private investigators to assume the identity of customers (including allegedly my husband ) for the purpose of locating private and confidential information held at third party banks and financial institutions which in our case included Chase Bank (then known as Chase Manhattan Bank).
One can only surmise that Fleet’s use of identity fraud as a business tool was for the sole purpose of circumnavigating recognized legal practices and procedures for obtaining private and confidential data on customers (and/or presumed adversaries) which included us. In simple terms Fleet picked up where NatWest USA had left off.
Did law enforcement here in America get actively involved? Not really. In fact, the only people that "really" got involved were the banks identity fraudsters (private investigators) who amongst other things came out of the woodwork and began making harassing phone calls day and night to our home. This included threats of physical violence and the "wrecking" of our personal finances including our credit. Which I might add, they eventually succeeded in doing after submitting multiple applications for credit in both our names to credit card companies and other consumer lenders week-after-week during the summer of 1998.
|Behind closed doors|
Rushing to the closet were the Sony Camcorder and personal tape collection is kept, you realize that some of the tapes (but not the camcorder) are missing. You immediately call the police who after taking a statement and custody of the VHS tape along with the blackmail note and clown wrapping paper open-up a criminal investigation.
Over the following week, you learn that both your mother and family lawyer have received copies of the same VHS tape sent via United Parcel Service (UPS). A truly horrible experience.
What was on the VHS tape which our blackmailers thought they could intimidate us with? Answer: private and highly personal footage of yours truly dressed in a shiny black rubber mackintosh, leather boots, latex rubber gloves and an assortment of other rubberwear all worn for fun in the privacy of my own bedroom and most certainly not for public viewing.
To this day, we still don’t know conclusively how and when the tape in question ended up in the hands of our blackmailers. We do know however that it was most likely stolen by someone we knew and ended up in the hands of Fleet Banks private investigators in return for some form of payment or other benefit.
|Apology from NatWest required|