AS Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio faced a humiliating grilling by his furious bank chairman, he must have realised he was fighting to save a once-glittering career.
Hours earlier, The Sun had exposed his affair with Dr Wendy Piatt, a former special adviser to Tony Blair and a dead ringer for his wife Ana.
He had been caught meeting his lover in a five-star hotel in Singapore when he was supposed to be purely on company business for Lloyds — nine per cent of which is owned by the taxpayer — at a conference.
Dr Piatt is Director General of the elite Russell Group, which sources funding for university research.
She had been seen going in and out of the hotel room where the banker had racked up a bill of nearly £4,000, including £550 on spa treatments.
Lloyds was memorably bailed out by the Government to the tune of £23.7billion in 2008 at the height of the global banking crisis.
The story of the hotel bill raised many questions in the mind of Lord Blackwell, the Lloyds Banking
Group chairman, who was naturally concerned at the potential damage to the bank’s reputation just days after the announcement of 3,000 job losses and 200 branch closures.
Could Portuguese-born AHO — as he is known in the City — prove that he had paid the personal aspects of the bill himself or had Lloyds unwittingly funded the entire love trip?
If he could not, the Special One’s position as chief executive of the bailed-out bank would be untenable.
After a meeting which sources described as “tense”, Lloyds finally issued a statement backing Horta- Osorio.
It said there had been “no breach” of the bank’s expenses policy. It was standing by him for now.
But the statement still failed to answer exactly how he had claimed the expenses.
And another question remains that sources say was not discussed in the Lloyds boardroom: How long had the affair with Dr Piatt been going on?
Former Labour MP Dan Norris might be interested to know.
Sources at the Russell Group insist Piatt and Norris have been an item. They were first reported as dating in gossip columns in 2012.
And he was pictured in February coming out of the central London block which houses the £1million flat she calls home.
Horta-Osorio, 52, and Piatt first met at an event in 2012 — and a very well-placed source insists their affair may have begun as early as 2013.
Norris, 56, was MP for Wansdyke from 1997 until 2010. He worked as David Miliband’s PPS in the
Foreign Office before eventually joining the Government as a parliamentary Undersecretary of State in the Department of Environment.
He raised the work of the Russell Group in Parliament when he was an MP and is now Senior Operations Manager at the organisation.
Norris and Piatt work closely together at the group, which supports 24 British universities, and the pair are also board members of the Snowdon Trust, a charity for disabled people supported by Paralympian legend Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Yesterday there was no sign of Norris at Piatt’s flat or at his home in Bristol where neighbours said he had “not been seen for months”.
Piatt, 45, has also gone to ground.
The Russell Group has refused to answer any questions about whether her trip with Horta-Osorio to
Singapore was sanctioned. A source said: “The Sun’s story sent shock waves through the Russell Group.
“There are some who feel Wendy has brought the organisation into disrepute and it is hugely embarrassing for everyone.
“The board of directors was furious and immediately began an investigation to see if her actions breached any of its rules — but it is unclear if she is going to face any disciplinary action.”
Yesterday it was reported in Portugal that Horta-Osorio is on a “make or break” getaway with wife Ana, 52, at a friend’s house 30 miles from their home in Lisbon.
Friends of his say he fears he is the victim of a smear campaign.
Lloyds are concerned about a series of leaks of “private information” from his office — which have no connection whatsoever to The Sun’s story.
We told how Horta-Osorio — who in 2014 earned £11.5million as CEO of the bailed-out bank — spent several days enjoying a boat trip and cosy dinner dates at top restaurants with Piatt ahead of a global banking conference in Singapore.
The bank chief stayed at the five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel where his room cost £350 per night.
Eyewitnesses claimed they saw Piatt entering and leaving Horta-Osorio’s hotel room on several occasions during the trip and letting herself in with her own key.
A copy of the room bill obtained by The Sun shows the room was booked in Horta-Osorio’s name using his Lloyds Bank address.
The room and charges for mini-bar and room service came to $5,796 in Singapore dollars (£3,276). A separate bill for two visits to the hotel’s luxurious spa suite came to £550.
Lloyds say there was no breach of the group’s expenses policy but have utterly failed to explain exactly how the bill was paid for.
AHO boasted of his determination to “lead by example” after being appointed CEO in 2011 and said he had taken the job because his wife Ana had told him to.
He has been keen to portray himself as a whiter-than-white bank boss and family man.
In 2013 he launched a “Code of Responsibility” for all Lloyds employees urging them to “do the right thing” and asking: “Have I understood the risks and implications of what I am doing?
“Would I be happy to tell my colleagues, family and friends about my actions?
“Am I leading by example? Would Lloyds be comfortable if my actions were reported externally?”
Horta-Osorio is under pressure to make a public statement and apologise.
MP Nigel Mills, a member of spending watchdog the Commons Public Accounts Committee, led calls for a probe into the top banker who was paid £8.5million last year.
He said: “It’s outrageous. It raises real concerns about his ethics and the way that Lloyds handles expenses claims.
“At a time when there are still real concerns about the culture of banking, this kind of thing does nothing to help the impression that lessons have been learned and leaders are being responsible and restrained.”
City commentator Ian Fraser, author of the acclaimed bestseller Shredded: Inside RBS, The Bank That Broke Britain, said Horta- Osorio would be “weakened” by the scandal.
He said: “This casts a negative light on Lloyds and taxpayers will not be impressed.
“Horta-Osorio has built up quite a following in the City and in government for the way he has managed Lloyds since the bailout, but this will weaken him.
“This sort of behaviour — which suggests rank hypocrisy and expenses abuse on Horta-Osorio’s part — make him look sleazy and will undermine him as chief executive.”
But AHO’s first apologies appear to be going to Ana, his wife of 25 years.
According to a Portuguese newspaper yesterday, the couple were spending time together at a sumptuous country club in Comporta, a quiet village situated on the southwest coast.
A source for the paper said: “Antonio has the image of a family man and will do everything to keep the marriage and family harmony.”
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