25 Jun 2014

No-one to blame for the wrongdoing at Wonga?

It’s another day, another saga of finance firms who rip people off and regulators who can’t get their act together until everybody responsible has moved on and it’s all “history”.

Between 2008 and 2010 Wonga was pressuring customers to repay debts using letters from a law firm – Chainey, D’Amato & Shannon.

Dawn Capital have pointed out that Adrian Beecroft is not on the board of Wonga, nor is he personally a shareholder though Dawn Capital which he runs is, and Dawn were not aware of the issues until very recently.

But they did not exist. They’d made the name up in the office.

That didn’t stop them charging some customers £50 for sending the letter.

At that time the man in charge was CEO Errol Damelin. He left the company earlier this year. But back then he was getting awards for entrepreneurship.

I asked Wonga’s new boss Tessa Cook – brought in from outside to clean up the mess – whether Mr Damelin knew about this rip-off – described by the regulator as “serious misconduct”. She told me today was “not about individuals”.

The Financial Conduct Authority has said there won’t be a criminal case against the company but the Labour MP Stella Creasy, who’s campaigned on this issue, is calling for that decision to be reversed.

And here’s why.

The 1970 Administration of Justice Act clearly states that its an offence to harass people by producing documents that look official but are not.

Yes, as early as 1970 the authorities were aware of rip off lenders making up false company headings and sending heavy letters to people to make them pay up.

There are political ramifications here.

First, its on record that this company paid for contact with Conservative ministers at the 2012 party conference.

The company says it was not discussed with ministers.

Then there is Adrian Beecroft.

He’s a major investor in Wonga, via Dawn Capital, and also a major donor to the Conservative Party. His spokesman told me Beecroft was not told about this until “extremely recently”.

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