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McFall brands B&B’s Pym the Michael Fish of finance

Treasury select committee chairman John McFall has accused Bradford & Bingley chairman Richard Pym of being the “Michael Fish” of financial services.

The Labour MP quoted a statement made by Pym on September 25, two days before the FSA decided that the bank no longer met its threshold conditions, which described B&B as “strongly capitalised” and “fit for purpose”.

Referring to the BBC weatherman’s comments the night before the 1987 hurricane, McFall said: “Is it fair to describe yourself as a financial services Michael Fish in that you suggested good financial weather shortly and then you were struck down by a storm and a hurricane taking everything away.”

Pym said at the time B&B was well capitalised but withdrawals accelerated over those two days from £26m on the Thursday to £200m by the Saturday when the FSA intervened.

Pym told MPs that the buy-to-let sector was effectively closed, saying “most of the lenders who were active have now withdrawn all their products”.

MPs challenged Pym’s £326,000 unconditional cash bonus but former B&B chairman Rod Kent, who appointed him, defended the bonus, saying it had been necessary to attract a high calibre chief executive in August to what was “not an attractive post”.

Pym told MPs that B&B was likely to double its arrears staff from 200 to 400 next year.

Northern Rock non-executive chairman Ron Sandler and chief executive Gary Hoffman were also grilled by MPs.

Hoffman said he was aware that Northern Rock had been described as having an “aggressive” repossession policy by the press but denied the nationalised lender’s progress in repaying the Government’s loan had been as a result of repossessions, which he said accounted for 1 per cent of the sum repaid.

Sandler warned MPs it was unlikely that it would be possible to return Northern Rock to private ownership in the short term due to the deteriorating conditions in the economy and housing market.

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