"Dark forces" blamed for Lloyds’ Co-op Bank fiasco

A shady conspiracy of politicians stopped Lloyds from selling its 632 branches on a commercial basis, failed bidder Lord Levene (pictured) claimed this morning.

The disastrous effort to sell the branches to the Co-op Bank went ahead because of political pressure, not sound business reasoning, he told MPs.

Andrew Tyrie, chairing the Treasury Select Committee, summed up the claims as “deep, dark forces” operating against NBNK, the company Levene chaired.

Levene told MPs Lloyds acted “in bad faith,” leading NBNK along while all the time favouring the Co-op because it is a mutual.

Levene said he only realised the process was stacked against him when an insider on the deal pointed to the coalition agreement, which says the government wants to promote competition in banking – and mutual lenders in particular.

Lloyds has denied it faced political pressure, maintaining it chose the Co-op on a combination of pricing and the risk of the deal failing.

The Treasury has stressed the process was an entirely commercial one. Ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers also told the MPs his bank received no help from politicians.