Press Release 57 22.3.99
Storyline: SOBS has withdrawn it’s High Court action against Birmingham Midshires Building Society thereby removing the last obstacle to the takeover of the society by Halifax plc. Bob Goodall says “I recognise I have a personal difficulty in giving up. However, hard as it is I have to let Midshires go.” “It would be illogical to risk personal bankruptcy in the event of losing the case which would not only be personally disastrous but would seriously interfere with the day-to-day running of the SOBS campaign. It was too much of a risk to take to save one building society when there are 69 others which may need to be campaigned for at some time in the future.” SOBS also need to focus it’s attentions on supporting the campaign to retain mutuality at Bradford & Bingley. B& B is after all the 2nd largest building society whereas Midshires is the 5th largest. Bob Goodall says “After detailed discussions with the director of Corporate Relations Tony McGarahan we have concluded that the High Court action must be ended as soon as possible. I will always maintain that with legal counsel we would have had a good chance of proving the 7 resolutions we proposed were not “frivolous or vexatious.” Without legal counsel the chance of winning the case was very much reduced. Under the British legal system in civil cases if you have no money you are effectively barred from obtaining justice. Its as simple as that! The Government should consider whether it is sensible that the only recourse a member of a building society has against a board is through the High Court. It is absurd.“For ordinary people this has to be rights in theory but not in reality.” The government should also think about providing legal counsel and financial advice for members resisting conversion of building societies. This view, suggested by Bob Goodall is recorded by the Building Societies Commission on page 47 of the document in which it explains it’s decision to confirm the takeover by Halifax plc. Paragraph 7.31 point a).
£££ Lesson for SOBS An important lesson for the campaign is that we were defeated by money. Money bribed the members to vote for the takeover and lack of money prevented us from defending our position in the High Court. Funding Bob Goodall says “A major weakness of the SOBS campaign is a lack of proper funding. We must make strenuous efforts to attract funding from all people and groups who believe in Mutuality. Finally but not least! Tony McGarahan. A personal comment from me. SOBS have maintained close links with Tony McGarahan the head of corporate relations for Birmingham Midshires from the very beginning of the campaign. I have been fortunate to have had close but respectful relationship with him and congratulate him on implementing a skillful and ultimately successful corporate strategy for the society. Although our views were different I think I can say that the battle over the mutual status of Midshires was always waged on both sides in a fair and balanced manner. Much of this I’m sure can be attributed to Tony McGarahan’s personal warmth, approachability and sense of fair play. I wish him well for the future. With this, except for the possibility of asking for a Judicial Review (if it becomes apparent that the Building Societies Commission decision is flawed in some way that would make such action appropriate) SOBS signs off from the campaign to save Birmingham Midshires Building Society. We wish the staff and customers of the society good fortune and we entrust Halifax plc with their well-being. We will focus on the need to save mutuality at Bradford & Bingley and on a wider scale on the need for Parliament to amend the Building Societies Act 1986 so that demutualisation can be consigned to the history books.
Bob Goodall Co-ordinator "Save Our Building Societies" campaign