Andrew Bailey and Lord Levene to give Co-op evidence

Deputy Bank of England Governor and rival for Co-op takeover of Lloyds 'Verde' branches to appear in front of Treasury Select Committee

Two key figures in the failed bid by the Co-op for Lloyd Bank’s “Verde” branches are to appear in front of the Treasury select committee inquiry into the collapse of the Co-op Bank.

Testimony from Andrew Bailey, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, and Lord Levene, who was trying to mount his own bid, will form a key part of the information gathering process before the inquiry’s evidence sessions are expected to end by late February.

Andrew Tyrie, the committee’s chairman, is understood to hope the final report — due in the spring — will help inform a Treasury-led independent investigation into the collapse of the mutual bank.

Mr Bailey, the head of the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), will be appearing for the first time as part of the committee’s inquiry into the bank and why it failed to buy the Verde branches.

Lord Levene, the former chairman of the challenger bank NBNK, which bid against Co-op for the TSB branches, is slated to appear next week.

He has described the branch sale to Co-op as a “wild goose chase” and is likely to disclose further details of the political “interference” he feels was involved in Lloyds’ decision to choose the Co-op over NBNK.

Lord Levene is likely to be asked about a memorandum, details of which first emerged in The Sunday Telegraph , which NBNK gave to Sir Win Bischoff, the Lloyds chairman, and the Co-op, in early 2012.

The document outlined the financing risk surrounding the Co-op bid as well as the problems of executing the deal.

“With an outdated platform and problems with the Britannia integration, the Co-op will face great difficulty,” the document said.

Lord Levene wrote to the Chancellor in June 2013 asking why the Co-op was allowed to continue with the deal when it was clear to many externally that it would not go ahead.

Lord Levene is also believed to have spoken to Lord King, then governor of the Bank, who is reported to have told him the NBNK deal would fail because of “a political desire” for the Co-op to succeed.

The Verde deal, which would have seen the Co-op buy Lloyds’ 631 TSB branches, collapsed in April 2013, just six weeks before it emerged the mutual bank was suffering a £1.5bn black hole in its capital provision.

Although Mr Bailey has not appeared to face specific questions over the Verde deal, at a 2013 hearing he was asked about the Co-op by Jesse Norman, the Conservative MP.

“Did the PRA advise the Co-operative Bank to discontinue its bid for the Verde branches because of the capital shortfall that you discovered?” Mr Norman inquired.

“We never approved the Co-op bid for the Verde branches,” Mr Bailey replied, adding that towards the end of 2011 “we made it clear to them that … it was not clear to us that the Co-op Banking Group had the ability to transform itself successfully and sustainably into an organisation on the scale that would result from acquiring the Verde assets”.

Mr Bailey has also submitted written evidence, including documents insisting that the loan book of the Britannia Building Society, which merged with Co-op in 2009, was the key factor behind the latter’s downfall.

Spokesmen for the committee and the PRA declined to comment.