Cerberus Capital Management: Purchase of Distressed Assets

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:44 pm on 22nd February 2017.

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Photo of George Kerevan George Kerevan Scottish National Party, East Lothian 4:44 pm, 22nd February 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the purchase of distressed assets by Cerberus Capital Management.

Cerberus Capital Management is an American private equity firm that specialises in distressed investing—purchasing so-called distressed or non-performing loans. Few people in the UK have heard of Cerberus, but it is the biggest purchaser of distressed assets in the world. Since 2010, Cerberus has acquired more than 1.2 million distressed or non-performing loans, worth more than $80 billion. Simply put, Cerberus is the world’s largest debt collector.

Let me begin by saying that so-called distressed loans are often anything but. Since the banking crisis of 2008, we have seen a sorry catalogue of thousands of instances in which banks have forced legitimate borrowers into distress or even insolvency, through no fault of their own. The so-called distress that we are discussing is largely manufactured. That has come about for a variety of reasons: interest rate swap mis-selling, the infamous Royal Bank of Scotland global restructuring group’s dash for cash, and outright criminal fraud such as occurred at HBOS Reading.

Even where such egregious or criminal behaviour has not taken place, there are too many instances of banks deciding that they no longer wish to support small and medium-sized enterprise customers in sectors that the lender now considers non-core to its shrinking loan book. As a result, thousands of legitimate customers find themselves being sold on to firms such as Cerberus without their knowledge or against their wishes. Because loans to SMEs are unregulated, those customers have little or no redress. My intention today is to put on record the plight of those badly served bank customers and to expose the exploitative and often inadequate business model used by Cerberus—a model that is also bad for the British taxpayer.