You will have seen the good news and an explanation of the bank scam event in the February Journal by Treasurer Jim. It has been a very stressful time for all the National Officers and the whole national committee, not just because of the event itself, but because a small group of members chose to see the worst and, without any knowledge of the details, speculated and then published in the public domain their negative views.
The first point is that Jim’s telephone displays the caller’s number and the display showed the local branch of the Bank of Scotland’s number that he knew well. The caller also had a knowledge of our club and systems. Jim explained when he terminated the call and contacted the bank they were very unhelpful, whereas the police were completely the opposite and after his initial contact sent 2 officers to interview him and take a statement. The police were very specific in their advice on the subject when they understood our club and its organisation.
The police told us the matter should be kept “in house” with the minimal number of people possible notified. Since this was advice from professionally qualified police officers, it would have been seriously negligent of us to ignore it, difficult as such a decision might be in view of members’ interests. So initially only the National Officers knew about the event and the sum of money involved. We later learned despite the sophistication of the scam that the police investigation had quickly identified the accounts and culprits involved and that the investigation had progressed to involve 2 English constabularies. It begged the question “if they could do it, why couldn’t/didn’t the bank?” They also confirmed that they had eliminated Jim completely from their investigations.
As a result of the negative response from the Bank of Scotland, Jim made a formal complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO). It was also decided by the National Officers in view of the positive police information to date to tell all the National Committee members at the very next meeting, but with the same caveat not to discuss with anyone else and this was done. Jim’s written report covered the essential details and included his offer to stand down there and then. Many committee members had experienced or knew of such types of scam and expressed their obvious concerns, but also their support for the actions taken to that point. The common view was that this was quite a sophisticated scam and that Jim was best placed to continue as Treasurer particularly as he was the only person that could answer any further questions from the bank or the police. A vote to that effect was taken and passed with a clear majority. Members were told of the police advice and no dissent was expressed at that time.
However, that confidentiality was subsequently broken which led to a series of unpleasant and speculative posts on publicly available Facebook and Website pages as well as a whole series of very unpleasant emails which sadly continues to this day. The nature of comments made unfortunately demonstrate a very biased, simplistic and populist view of the event itself, the Club MAAs and how as a limited company we should deal with the authorities involved. Demands for a full police investigation of the Treasurer, his immediate sacking, the resignation of all the National Officers and the entire National Committee for incompetence without a shred substantial reasoning would not, if implemented, have helped one bit and almost certainly would not have had the result we successfully achieved. The toxic nature of many comments was extremely hard to take for all of us, but particularly for Jim Lepley and his family. It took an immense amount of courage for him to remain at his post and carry on with his duties as well as instigate our claim with the FSO. The initial comments also led to further completely unwarranted and unsubstantiated claims of mal-administration and a libellous claim of the national committee spending £9-£12k a year on themselves.
Despite the successful claim to the FSO, where their investigator found against the bank actions or non-actions, their failure to adhere to an agreed complaints protocol led to the instruction to fully refund our loss and pay interest at 8% However, this is apparently still not good enough and this same group have continued their negativity. They persist in sniping and demanding to know what additional measures have been put in place to prevent such an event ever happening again. Their over-simplistic expectations serve to illustrate their naivety, as publicly announcing any such measures would defeat their purpose.
Whilst we truly hope these measures will be sufficient, there is no guarantee, since in reality these types of criminals are always trying to circumvent such measures. I am truly proud of the all the National Officers and National Committee members that stood firm in support of the National Treasurer and their commitment to serving the Club. For that support I am very grateful and now the matter has been resolved in our favour it demonstrates that we acted correctly and responsibly in the best interests of the Club as a whole.