Lloyds Banking Group (LON:LLOY) could face a fresh challenge with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) considering a fresh investigation into the multimillion-pound fraud at its HBOS’ Reading division, The Sunday Times has revealed. Six people, including two former bank staff, were jailed for the scam which saw corrupt employees impose a firm of turnaround consultants on their small business customers in exchange for bribes.
Lloyds’ share price has fallen into the red in London this morning, having given up 0.96 percent to 57.59p as of 10:29 BST. The stock is underperforming the broader UK market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index currently standing 0.13 percent lower at 6,987.03 points. The group’s shares have given up just under 13 percent of their value over the past year, as compared with about a 7.5-percent dip in the Footsie.
Lloyds faces fresh probe
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the SFO was conducting a ‘pre-investigative’ review into allegations in an internal report, dubbed Project Lord Turnbull, claiming that Lloyds’ HBOS unit had a strategy to conceal the fraud at its Reading office. The news comes after the National Crime Agency (NCA) said in April that it would lead a preliminary review into the fraud allegations to determine whether a full criminal investigation was needed.
The newspaper notes, however, that an NCA manager had written in an email this month that the SFO was “conducting a pre-investigative review of the allegations contained within the Turnbull Report”. The scope of the SFO’s inquiries and why it is leading the review remain unknown. The Sunday Times quoted the SFO as saying that it could neither confirm nor deny any interest in the Turnbull Report.
Analysts on FTSE 100 group
Deutsche Bank, which rates Lloyds as a ‘buy,’ set a price target of 74p on the shares last week. According to MarketBeat, the bailed-out lender currently has a consensus ‘buy’ rating and an average price target of 76p.