‘A bank employee forged my signature and I was told to pay £1.2m leaving me bankrupt’

‘A bank employee forged my signature and I was told to pay £1.2m leaving me bankrupt’

On Valentines Day 2014, Roderick Lynch was asked for £1.2million by the bank that had financed his ailing company, except Lynch did not remember signing a personal guarantee. Around 10 years after Aldermore Bank had initially helped Lynch, 56, start his business and seven years after Lynch says he found out about the guarantee, a High Court judge finally found Aldermore had used a signature on the guarantee “signed by a person at the Bank”. Although the court acknowledged the bank acted in “good faith”, believing it was valid.

Despite the victory Lynch’s plans for more than ‘a celebratory sandwich and a glass of wine’ in his lawyer’s Wigmore Street office are now on ice as Aldermore plan to appeal the landmark decision next week, plunging Lynch back into a nightmare which has followed him through cancer treatment and a freak car accident. He says he needs at least £200,000 to fight the appeal.

Leading businessman Lynch grew up in South London on the Aylesbury Estate and had a Southwark disability services business employing 500 people. As well as being CEO of Ruskin Private Hire, Lynch was feted by Gordon Brown at Downing Street, a transport advisor at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and is a race equality campaigner.

Describing her former boss, Ruskin accountant Marion Hughes said: “ He is passionate about community, about giving back. He has come from a background, an underprivileged background and he suffered lots of things – he has done exceptionally well for himself and he does not suffer fools gladly.”

READ MORE: Two bank employees stole nearly £1m from customers

Lynch’s court case has cost him almost a £1million to date and he expects that to increase with another appeal

In 2013 Ruskin ran into trouble, entering a tax dispute with HMRC and was put into administration a year later. Throughout this period Aldermore tried to save the company but eventually the bank demanded Lynch hand over £1.2million which they say he had signed away. Lynch and Hughes contested they had never seen or signed the document.

After finding out about the guarantee and becoming bankrupt, Lynch says it took another three years before he could pursue Aldermore legally. In this time he says he developed colon and prostate cancer, while the case continued to hang over him.

Remarking on his decision to take a bank to court, Lynch says: “People asked why are you fighting this, but I said I had done nothing wrong. They thought they could bulldoze the case because ‘Look at us, we are a bank and look at him’.”

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He says: “It messed my whole family, it messed up me and my whole life, I could not trust anybody and I was always looking over my shoulder. You can’t get credit, you can’t get loans. They bankrupted me, my name, and my reputation. When you can’t trust anybody you cannot function and you start to get depressed.”

But, Lynch says a surgeon at Kings College Trust promised him he would do everything he could to let him see the end of the trial, and a successful operation in December 2017 put him into remission. However, a freak motor vehicle accident in September 2018 left Lynch at his lowest point and may have triggered the return of his cancer.

He says: ” I could not use my arms and I could not even wipe my own backside. I had to rely on friends and family to help me put clothes on. Even holding a hand up to brush your teeth caused me pain in my shoulders and neck. My hands would freeze up. I was thinking ‘Should I be living?’ At times I thought about taking tablets and killing myself.”

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Lynch was at his lowest after another woman drove into his car leaving him in constant pain

After a round of radiotherapy in 2019 Lynch was ready for the hearing in March 2020, but Covid came. It wasn’t until March 2021, nearly ten years after he allegedly signed away £1.2million, that the case was heard.

Lynch says: ” Then we started. I was apprehensive but I was positive the whole way. Black people like me get harshly dealt with in the justice system. People can’t tell me you can’t say that because that’s my lived experience and that’s my story. Nine days it lasted. It was hell. When they were cross examined it was embarrassing. The judge would interject and to me as a lay person I would think what the hell is this.”

He also stresses key witnesses from Aldermore did not give evidence, confirmed in court documents seen by MyLondon.

For Aldermore the blow came when a forensic handwriting expert concluded “there is strong evidence to support the proposition that the signature was not written by Mr Lynch. It is a simulation (freehand copy) or possibly a tracing of his general signature style”.

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Lynch remembers winning: “I was euphoric, I said ‘Wow wow wow’. Not just for me, my family that stood behind me.” Lynch also believes the case was a landmark for people across the UK who might have had their signature forged at their banks and are therefore being pursued for ‘unenforceable guarantees’. As of July 2021, the Bank Signature Forgery Campaign reported that at other banks across the UK, there were 703 crime reports and 26 files of evidence with the National Crime Agency in relation to bank signature forgery.

Commenting on how the case changed him, Lynch says “With financial institutions I am doubly wary, and in general if someone asks me a question I wonder ‘Why do they want to know that?’ It’s in the back of my mind.”

Last year the court ordered Aldermore to pay Lynch’s court costs of £430,000, while Lynch says the whole experience has cost him nearly £1million. However Lynch has turned to Crowd Justice so he can fight the latest appeal.

An Aldermore spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment on forthcoming legal proceedings”.

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