MPs are pressing for answers about allegations that some banks may have faked signatures on UK court documents used to repossess homes and recover debts.
Guardian Money revealed in February 2019 that a group called the Bank Signature Forgery Campaign was claiming there had been “alleged industrial-scale forgery” of signatures.
The group has said several banks and lenders were linked to documents carrying questionable signatures, and that in some cases people were evicted as a direct result.
In July 2019, parliament’s powerful Treasury committee wrote to the Financial Conduct Authority and the National Crime Agency requesting that they engage with the campaign to review its evidence and investigate as appropriate.
Fifteen months later, the MP Mel Stride, the chair of the committee, has written to the FCA and the NCA to ask about their findings so far and any regulatory or legal arguments that are being considered.
Stride told them he was “aware there will be sensitivities around some of this information, but I would welcome as much information as you can provide”.
The central allegation of the campaign is that signatures on some UK court documents appear to have been forged – that is, not signed by the person whose printed name appears under the “statement of truth”.
The campaign has amassed a dossier of signatures that purport to be by one person but which sometimes appear to be very different.
The all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking said it was supporting the campaign as its members “receive frequent and consistent representations from constituents with concerns over the possible forgery of signatures”.
It added: “This campaign will provide a vital method of gathering evidence of possible signature forgeries by UK banks in court documents.”
In the US, fake signatures on documents in the wake of the housing market bubble bursting in 2006-07, were among the “reckless and abusive mortgage practices” that resulted in a $25bn (£19bn) settlement between mortgage lenders and the US government and most US states in 2012.
Boston Dynamics Spot robot can recharge on its own now
Boston Dynamics, the robotics firm once owned by Alphabet’s Google and now part of Japan’s tech heavyweight investor Softbank, just gave its dog-like robot Spot an upgrade.
Spot now features a recharging station that the robot can use to power up on its own, which Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter told CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday allows the robot to cover a much broader range, and be located in more remote locations.
Spot also now has access to an arm that allows the robot to perform tasks such as opening doors or drawers, adjusting valves and flipping a power switch.
At a base price for the Spot Explorer of $74,500, the new enterprise version with these features will go higher, but Playter says the company has not yet set pricing for the upgraded robot, which will be available in early 2021.
The robot — which can carry a maximum weight of 14 kilograms, or 30.9 pounds — was launched roughly a year ago in September 2019 and found one of its most high-profile uses in the coronavirus outbreak. It was put into use in Singapore to encourage social distancing in public spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the time, the company stressed that Spot was encouraging, not enforcing, social distancing.
“The robot isn’t really enforcing in Singapore,” Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last May. “It’s just giving people information and encouraging them,” he said. “There’s a human nearby who can do whatever enforcement they decide is appropriate.”
Spot also was used at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to take some vitals as part of screening patients for Covid-19.
In all, there are nearly 300 Spots out in the world today.
This week, Boston Dynamics announced a deal with Trimble, a major construction industry player.
As construction sites are trying to better control how densely workers are concentrated, Boston Dynamics’ CEO Playter said that Spot can be used for surveying and data collection, while helping reduce the number of workers on site. Spot will be integrated with Trimble’s data collection sensors and field control software to automate repetitive tasks such as site scans, surveying and progress monitoring in potentially unsafe environments.
Use of robots to collect data and perform hazardous task have been among the primary instances of robots in the field to date, and some companies that have already used Spot include BP, Ford, and Merck.
JPMorgan Asset Management on economic recovery, U.S. stimulus talks
Events and entertainment workers protest unemployment on Aug. 19 in Las Vegas.
BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images)
While it appears that the economy has sharply bounced back from the pandemic’s blow, this is actually a “steroid kind of recovery,” JPMorgan Asset Management’s David Kelly told CNBC.
“We have seen what looks like a V-shaped recovery, but it’s really V-interrupted — it’s half of V,” the chief global strategist said. A V-shaped recovery is one in which an economy sharply rises after a recession.
He explained that when the shot in the arm of fiscal stimulus wears off, growth will slow down again.
“It looks like an economic recovery, but it’s really sort of a steroid kind of recovery. As the steroid of fiscal stimulus is removed, the economy is going to grow more slowly … it’s going to grow much more slowly in the fourth quarter than it did in the third,” Kelly told CNBC on Thursday.
While half of jobs lost in the U.S. have been recovered, he said it’s “still going to be a crawl” until industries shut down by the pandemic can be reopened again.
The U.S. economy has recaptured about 11.4 million jobs — or around half of all positions lost. The unemployment rate has come down to 7.9%, but is still more than double its pre-pandemic level. New claims in the week ended Oct. 10, however, surged to the highest number since Aug. 22, as cases rise in a a renewed wave.
“You need to deal with the pandemic to have a healthy recovery, it’s as simple as that,” Kelly said.
Millions of Americans are waiting for more federal aid to meet their food and housing needs during this crisis, as Washington remains locked in a stalemate over further coronavirus stimulus.
But Kelly says the country will get a stimulus package after the November presidential elections are over.
“I think we’re going to get stimulus anyway. I think people are obsessed with the issue of, do we get stimulus in the next two weeks,” he said. “What’s been going on between the White House and the House Democrats are all to do with politics. After the elections, I think there will be a stimulus package.”
“And in fact, I think if anything there’ll be too much stimulus,” Kelly said.