Lloyds Faces Police Review of Bristol Office Conduct

(Bloomberg) -- Lloyds Banking Group Plc will face a fresh police review over possible financial fraud at a unit in the south west of England, adding pressure on bank executives over their handling of the long-running scandal, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Officers from Thames Valley Police, the largest force outside London in England and Wales, are preparing to look into actions of the British lender’s Bristol office, the person said, declining to be identified because the information is private. Police in neighboring Avon and Somerset confirmed they asked Thames Valley to look into allegations made against financial institutions.

“We continue to record and assess new allegations referred to us,” Avon and Somerset police said Friday in an email to Bloomberg, declining to identify any banks. “To ensure complete transparency, we’ve asked Thames Valley Police to conduct a review of specific allegations made against financial institutions in Avon and Somerset.”

A Lloyds spokeswoman said in emailed comments the bank is not aware of "any active investigations into Bristol and this is a matter for Thames Valley Police to comment upon."

A further inquiry into the Bristol operations, where about 200 customers have alleged wrongdoing by the bank, would be a blow for Lloyds following the scandal at its HBOS unit in Reading. There, six people were jailed as a consequence of a scheme that siphoned millions from ailing businesses and eventually cost the lender around 250 million pounds ($328 million).

An earlier investigation by Avon and Somerset police found no evidence of any criminal offenses in Bristol.

In October, former U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable called for a new investigation into the cases, the BBC said. Several people alleged that the firm’s business support unit in Bristol ruined their businesses, including by selling off assets at too low a price, after they missed loan payments, the BBC said.

The Bristol investigation will be another headache for Chief Executive Officer Antonio Horta-Osorio after the HBOS case. The bank’s executives have been pressed over their knowledge of the wrongdoing that saw business customers ripped off by corrupt consultants and bankers.

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