Regulation  

FCA bends to MPs' demands over RBS report

FCA bends to MPs' demands over RBS report

The Financial Conduct Authority has agreed to demands by a group of MPs to disclose a report into the treatment of Royal Bank of Scotland’s business customers.

Last month the FCA refused to publish the skilled persons’ report into the treatment of customers in RBS’s Global Restructuring Group, which was supposed to help distressed small businesses, but which has faced accusations of forcing them into bankruptcy.

In response, Treasury committee chairman Nicky Morgan threatened to appoint a legal adviser to verify that the FCA’s summary report reflected the actual reports findings.

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Andrew Bailey, the chief executive of the FCA, has now agreed to this procedure and the committee has said it will appoint Andrew Green QC to compare the two reports.

Mr Green has previously investigated issues in the financial sector as the author of the report into the failings of the Financial Services Authority around collapsed lender HBOS.

Mrs Morgan said: “The advisers will now start their work and report to the committee before Mr Bailey’s appearance at the end of the month.

“If the advisers’ report does not provide the committee with the assurances it needs, it will decide whether any further steps are required.

“There is no good reason for the committee’s review to delay the FCA from publishing its summary as soon as possible.”

Mr Bailey had previously written to Mrs Morgan saying it is not in the public’s best interest to publish the full report but reiterated the FCA’s “intention to publish a detailed summary”.

Writing to Mrs Morgan he agreed to the committee’s proposal but requested that Mr Green consider the reasons for why information might be omitted from the summary report, on top of what information is omitted.

GRG, which was a division of RBS, was a business support unit for troubled firms. More than 12,000 companies were transferred into GRG between 2007 and 2012.

Problems were first noted in November 2013, when Lawrence Tomlinson, then entrepreneur in residence at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, made allegations against RBS.

It claimed the bank artificially distressed otherwise viable businesses and through their actions puts them on a journey towards administration, receivership and liquidation.

It also added that once transferred into the business support division of the bank, the business was not supported in a manner consistent with good turnaround practice and that the insolvency process lacked fairness and accountability. 

The following year in January 2014 the FCA announced a review of the conduct of GRG.

The FCA expected the report to be published at the end of 2015 but this was pushed back and it was only in November 2016 when the regulator issued a statement.

This gave a summary of the findings and set out RBS’ new complaints review process, as well as its automatic refund for complex fees charged to SME customers in GRG.

damian.fantato@ft.com