Press Release 25
Re: Nationwide ballot; the defeat of the 3 resolutions tabled by the carpetbaggers.
Comment:"It was close! SOBS is mightily relieved. But this carpetbagging madness must stop and it must stop now"
"This yearly charade has turned into a game of Russian Roulette for the mutual building societies involved. It doesn't matter how many time members vote in favour of mutuality one vote against and that's it. To be absolutely blunt, it is now only direct action by the Government that can save the mutual building society movement."
It is imperative that the Government acts even if it is limited to amending current legislation. Secondary legislation might facilitate the following defences of building societies:
Defence l) Increase the number of signatures needed to stand as a director or to put forward a resolution (Best explained believe it or not by referring to the marginal support that any bizarre group can always obtain. As an example: the monster raving looney party)
At present any carpetbagger merely needs to get 50 signatures from members eligible to vote to throw a building Society into chaos, take it away from focusing on the work it does and cost it literally millions of pounds.
50 signatures from about 4.9 million members eligible to vote in the case of the Nationwide. If you think about it even the monster raving looney Candidate at a general Election can gain 50 votes or more from an average constituency of only 60,000 people.
Surely a percentage of members is necessary. Set the number too low and the increasingly organised carpetbaggers in the form of Plc's ie Murray Financial could still sign up the number required.
Defence 2) Reduce the value of potential windfalls by
requiring any potential windfall to be paid to all members of
the demutualising building society. :For example with the Halifax
conversion out of 20 million members only 6-7 million received
With Nationwide 4.9 million were eligible to vote out of a membership of around 8 million. Excluded are the second names on accounts or people who have less than £100*.
*These may include previously active members of the society such as pensioners, who have needed to draw on their savings in retirement. (Neither would they be eligible to vote as borrowers since their mortgages are paid off). The wider the distribution of windfalls the less valuable they would potentially be therefore the carrot to carpetbaggers would be reduced.
Defence 2b) Reduce the value of windfalls by requiring windfalls to be paid out entirely in proportion to the amount saved or borrowed in conjunction with the period of time that this has been done. A carpetbagger investing £100 for 2 years would receive the windfall they deserve - next to nothing! This would undermine the carpetbagging pool of support.
A Challenge to the media!
SOBS are sure that other mechanisms could be thought up by city journalists & by building societies that would both maintain the democracy of mutuals but at the same time reduce the craving by carpetbaggers to feed on mutuals.
Ideally the government should introduce direct & unambiguous primary legislation that would stop carpetbaggers for good! To stop them asset-stripping building societies built up after all by generations of people. (Perhaps if the government wanted to keep nomination rights as they are at present then legislation might be devised to preferably a) end windfalls or perhaps unless this already occurs b) make windfalls liable to a heavy tax.) Important resolutions affecting the very ethos of a society (to change it from a mutual to a plc) might be limited for instance to being held only once every 5 years.
Signing over any potential windfalls; a protection for building societies against carpetbaggers "I would also urge all other building societies to immediately follow the examples of Nationwide and Britannia in requiring all new members to sign over any potential windfall they might obtain through conversion, to a charitable foundation of some sort."
Last but not least!
"I would like to thank the board & staff of Nationwide for maintaining the mutual status of the society. People both today and the generations to come will have good reason to be thankful."
"I also pay tribute to the vigorous campaign fought by all those in SOBS. In particular I would like to highlight the considerable contributions and efforts made by Vincent Cable MP and Kerry Pollard MP."
How people can help the SOBS campaign: Anyone wishing to help should write to Bob Goodall at "Save Our Building Societies", 8 Belmont Court, Belmont Hill, St Albans, Herts AL1 RB or telephone him on 01727 847370 (24hrs)
Press Release by Bob Goodall Tel 01727 84737
Co-ordinator "Save Our Building Societies" campaign