February 20th, 2009
02:33 PM GMT
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I had a late night phone call from a friend in the Caribbean. He had money on deposit at Stanford Bank in Antigua - not a fortune, just his savings in a certificate of deposit. Money he can no longer access.

Customers queue outside the Stanford Group-owned Bank of Antigua in St. John's.
Customers queue outside the Stanford Group-owned Bank of Antigua in St. John's.

Worse - his Stanford credit card no longer works since Visa has suspended all Stanford plastic. That has ramifications for things like telephone bills which are paid directly using the cards.

In short, he is facing the complete collapse of his financial affairs. My friend is one of many tens of thousands who have been affected by this case. Some savers in the U.S. will be covered by government deposit insurance. Those in the Caribbean and Central America will be less fortunate.

These are not the wealthy victims of Bernie Madoff. Mostly these are working people who used Stanford as their local bank, for everyday transactions like checking, certificates of deposits and small loans.

The employees in the Caribbean were bank tellers and administrators, not the hedge fund masters found elsewhere. Sure, Stanford was an "offshore" bank - but it was responsible for some very onshore duties.

Some years ago, when living outside Britain, I actually thought about opening an account with Stanford. The only reason I didn't was because of the time and trouble of changing direct payments from my existing bank.

I slept well last night. My friend did not.

Have you ever been affected by a bank failure ? How did you cope ? Did your family have to lend you money ? Join this discussion so we can understand what it's really like.

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