Mike Ellis is an Authorised Person. We know this because the Financial Conduct Authority did the authorising. Mr Ellis.was finance director of of HBoS from 2001 to 2004, and again from 2007 until 2009. Now he’s chairman of the Skipton Building Society, an altogether less demanding role, but still atop a financial institution with £16bn of assets.

The FCA has a report into the near-death experience of HBoS. Under the cosh from the Treasury committee it promised to publish, but seems in no hurry, hiding behind the “Maxwellisation” rule. As with the “duty of care” this principle has been stretched like a piece of knicker elastic to cover far more than originally envisaged. Maxwellisation now obliges reporting bodies to inform any individual that they face criticism.

Obviously, the person must then take legal advice, consider carefully what’s proposed, perhaps ask questions, take further advice, consider carefully, and before you know it, the events have slipped into ancient history. As Ray Perman pointed out in a letter to the FT this week, the resultant delay is as rough on the innocent as on the guilty.

An objective observer might think that the finance director of a major financial institution when it almost failed would face criticism in any report into the rescue. In Mr Ellis’ case, we’ll only know when it’s published. In July the public gets its annual chance to ask the FCA about a date. Do not expect an illuminating answer.

In addition to naming the guilty, the report should provide ammunition for the die-hards who believe that Lloyds Bank and its top brass knew they were buying a lemon. That HBoS was a lemon is not in dispute, since the purchase price was cut after it had been agreed, and the damage to Lloyds’ balance sheet was extensive.

The question the Lloyds Bank Shareholder Action Group wants testing is whether the directors knew it was a lemon, but went ahead anyway, strongarmed by the Treasury. The group reckons this cost shareholders £6bn, and its lawyers are scrapping in court with Lloyds and the former directors.

That money is gone, and continuing to pursue those in charge then seems pretty pointless. We want to know exactly what happened, and since the FCA report was originally commissioned (by the FCA’s predecessor body) as an internal report, it should tell us – provided the ghost of Robert Maxwell lets it see the light of day.

Please don’t ask for credit

They’ve heard all the licence to print money jokes at De La Rue, but the latest one is even less funny than: Why can’t you just run off a few extra notes for your fees?

This week Britain’s banknote printer revealed grim figures and a cut dividend. A clipped payout is usually accompanied by some cheerful rider about a base from which to progress. De La Rue said only that it will “seek to maintain” the lower level. The shares sank to their lowest for over a decade.

Inflation is the banknote printer’s friend. It remains a long way off, while plastic notes (if we take to them) last longer than paper ones. But the existential threat is to folding money itself. Last year the value of cashless transactions in the UK passed that of cash sales, and the decline of cash is accelerating. Technology is making even the smallest transactions – for a tube journey, say – cheap enough to beat cash. Cashless sales also make fraud and theft harder, and avoid the cost of money counting.

De La Rue’s new management has a strategic plan, but if banknotes are going to become like the canals – nice to have, but hardly essential in a modern economy – the outlook is pretty grim.

Pop up or pay, pal

Sick of those pop-up ads on your PC? A German court this week ruled that adblockers are legal, even though allowing the likes of Google to pay to allow ads through the block looks suspiciously like extortion. We’ve come to believe that email should always be free, but like in-credit banking, it costs money. Those irritating ads still look a less painful way to pay for it.

This is my FT column from Saturday

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