British government gives RBS report to City watchdogs

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT::The report was compiled over six months and investigates claims against the unit within the bank dealing with ‘risky’ loans

AFP, LONDON

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 - Page 15

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) faced fresh damage to its reputation yesterday after the British government handed financial watchdogs a report claiming it forced small firms to default in order to seize their assets.

British Business Secretary Vince Cable confirmed on Sunday that he had given the report — written by Lawrence Tomlinson from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills — to the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

The report, published yesterday, has been compiled over the past six months and focuses primarily on claims against the bank’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG), which deals with risky loans.

RBS — 81 percent owned by the state after its near collapse during the 2008 financial crisis — announced on Nov. 1 that it was to create an internal “bad bank” to run down £38 billion (US$61.63 billion) of high-risk assets.

The government is looking to return the rescued lender to the private sector.

The report alleges that the bank hit seemingly healthy businesses with unmanageable charges and rates before seized their assets at a knock-down price.

“From the cases I have heard, it is clear that a perception has arisen that the intention is to purposefully distress businesses to put them in GRG and subsequently take their assets ... at a discounted price,” the report’s author said.

“There are many devastating stories of how RBS has wrecked good businesses and the ruinous impact this has on the lives of the business owners,” he wrote.

“I look forward to seeing how RBS proposes to take forward the forensic investigation into this part of the bank,” the author added.

Cable called the allegations “very serious.”

“I am however confident that the new management of RBS is aware of this history and is determined to turn RBS into a bank that will support the growth of small and medium sized businesses,” he added.