On Valentine’s Day 2014, Roderick Lynch was asked for £1.2million by the bank that had funded his struggling business, except Lynch could not recall signing a personal guarantee. Around 10 years after Aldermore Bank initially helped Lynch, 56, start his business and seven years after Lynch said he discovered the collateral, a High Court judge finally found Aldermore had used a signature on the guarantee “signed by a person at the Bank”. Although the tribunal acknowledged that the bank had acted in “good faith”, believing it to be valid.
Despite the victory, Lynch’s plans for more than a ‘celebratory sandwich and a glass of wine’ at his solicitor’s office in Wigmore Street are now on ice as Aldermore plans to appeal the landmark decision the next week, plunging Lynch into a nightmare that followed him through cancer treatment and a freak car accident. He says he needs at least £200,000 to fight the appeal.
Prominent businessman Lynch grew up in South London on the Aylesbury estate and owned a disability services business in Southwark employing 500 people. As well as being CEO of Ruskin Private Hire, Lynch was feted by Gordon Brown in Downing Street, transport advisor to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and is a campaigner for racial equality.
Describing his former boss, Ruskin’s accountant Marion Hughes said: “ He is passionate about community, about giving back. He comes from a background, from a disadvantaged background and he’s suffered a lot – he’s done exceptionally well and he doesn’t suffer fools willingly.”
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In 2013 Ruskin got into trouble, getting into a tax dispute with HMRC and was put into administration a year later. Throughout this period, Aldermore tried to save the business, but the bank eventually asked Lynch to hand over £1.2million, which they say he signed. Lynch and Hughes disputed that they had never seen or signed the document.
After finding out about the collateral and filing for bankruptcy, Lynch says it took another three years before he could sue Aldermore legally. Around this time, he says he developed colon and prostate cancer, as the case continued to weigh on him.
Commenting on his decision to sue a bank, Lynch said, “People asked why you were fighting this, but I said I didn’t do anything wrong. look at him’.”
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He says: “It ruined my whole family, it ruined me and my whole life, I couldn’t trust anyone and I was always looking over my shoulder. You can’t get credit, you can’t not get loans. They bankrupted me, my name and my reputation. When you can’t trust anyone, you can’t function and you start to get depressed.
But, says Lynch, a Kings College Trust surgeon promised him he would do everything he could to see the trial through, and a successful operation in December 2017 put him in 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 couldn’t use my arms and couldn’t even wipe my back. I had to rely on my friends and family to help me get dressed. Even raising my hand to brush my teeth caused pain in my shoulders and neck. My hands would freeze. I thought ‘Should I live?’ Sometimes I thought about taking pills and killing myself.”
After a series of radiation treatments in 2019, Lynch was ready for the March 2020 hearing, but Covid came along. It was not until March 2021, almost a decade after he allegedly gave up £1.2m, that the case was heard.
Lynch says: ” Then we started. I had apprehensions but I was positive all along. Blacks like me have harshly treated 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. It lasted nine days. It was hell. When they were cross-examined, it was embarrassing. The judge would step in and for me, as a layman, I would think what the hell is that.”
He also points out that key Aldermore witnesses did not testify, 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. ‘a simulation (freehand copy) or perhaps a tracing of his signature general style’.
Lynch remembers his victory: “I was euphoric, I said ‘Wow wow wow’. Not only for me, my family who supported me.” Lynch also believes the case has been a landmark for people across the UK who may have had their signatures forged at their banks and are therefore being sued over ‘unenforceable guarantees’. In July 2021, the Bank Signature Forgery Campaign reported that at other banks in the UK there were 703 crime reports and 26 evidence files with the National Crime Agency relating to bank signature forgery.
Commenting on how the case has changed him, Lynch says: “With financial institutions, I’m doubly suspicious, and usually if someone asks me a question, I’m like, ‘Why do they want to know this? ‘ It’s in the back of my head.”
Last year, the court ordered Aldermore to pay Lynch £430,000 legal costs, while Lynch says the whole experience cost him almost £1million. However, Lynch turned to mob justice so he can fight the last call.
A spokesperson for Aldermore said: ‘We are unable to comment on any upcoming legal proceedings.
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