Activists who have established a 'Bank of Ideas' on the site of a redundant office complex owned by investment bank UBS say the company is attempting legal intimidation to get them out.
Following the official opening of the “public repossession” site, the heavily bailed-out Swiss bank who claim ownership of the site have delivered a set of legal papers to what Occupy the London Stock Exchange (OLSX) describe as an "already thriving community centre on the borders of the City".
Lawyers acting on behalf of OLSX have placed doubt on the enforceability of the documents delivered by UBS, suggesting that they in fact constitute "a flagrant breach of civil procedure rules".
The Bank of Ideas is located in a huge office complex of four interlinked buildings which have been left empty since 2009.
A group affiliated with Occupy London, which is campaigning for social justice, just economics and global democracy, took over the building on Friday 18 November 2001.
The centre was opened on 19 November as a space for alternative learning and debate, together with practical space made available for people who have lost nurseries, community centres and youth clubs as a result of government spending cuts.
The Bank of Ideas hosted a full events programme over the weekend, including the second day of the UK-Ireland Occupy Convention, a talk and a question and answer session from financial trader Alessio Rastani, and a packed gig by activist and comedian Mark Thomas.
The UBS investment bank promptly posted papers relating to an injunction on the building, the validity of which is being formally challenged by the Bank of Ideas legal team.
UBS then left papers detailing a possession order on the building. But these were unsigned, unstamped and had no claim number, says OLSX.
Occupy London's Helen Poplar commented: “By hiring expensive lawyers to rush out questionable paperwork, UBS is trying to use their financial clout to scare us into abandoning a thriving community centre. It won’t work. Just because you’re a global investment bank in receipt of a $60 billion bailout doesn’t mean you can short-circuit the proper legal process.”
Edward North added: “We’ve been totally overwhelmed with requests to use the space. We already have events penciled in up until the end of the year. Yet UBS, a bank whose reckless activities have cost us our community centres, youth clubs and libraries, would prefer that this building remains empty. If PM David Cameron is serious about the 'Big Society', he would personally intervene to allow the Bank of Ideas to continue.”
Critics point out that UBS was one of the main beneficiaries of shared appreciation mortgages, sold to older homeowners in the UK through the late 1990s, which have left many British pensioners in poverty as house prices rose and their equity declined.
Unlike Barclays, says Occupy London, UBS never launched any kind of rescue package to help those pensioners who suddenly found themselves unable to move to more suitable accommodation or to be closer to family members after a lifetime of paying the bills.
* OLSX: http://occupylondon.org.uk/
* Bank of Ideas: http://www.bankofideas.org.uk/