RBS was 'rude and aggressive' in dealing with struggling businesses

Inquiry clears bank of forcing firms into bankruptcy but criticises business culture

associate business editor

Royal Bank of Scotland has been cleared by an international law firm of allegations that it systematically forced viable businesses into bankruptcy.

That was the most incendiary allegation in a report into the bank's Global Reconstruction Group (GRG), dealing with distressed businesses holding RBS loans, penned by the government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson.

But Clifford Chance, which was commissioned by the bank and has previously done work for it, still criticised a lack of transparency over the way in which fees were charged to struggling businesses and highlighted how companies it had interviewed said GRG staff were "insensitive, rude or aggressive", although it did not verify that allegation. The law firm also found that a staff-training manual in use at GRG had suggested using client companies' overdraft facilities as "leverage" in negotiations and raised issues about internal valuations of property.

However, it cleared RBS staff of "offering" companies with attractive property assets to GRG so that the assets could then be sold on to its property arm West Register.

Clifford Chance publicised its review, which had been due to come out at the start of the year, after carrying out 138 interviews and reviewing 130 files comprising over 400,000 pages.

Its findings led Ross McEwan, RBS's chief executive, to say: "The trust that a bank has with its customers is fundamental. That trust was put at risk at RBS by the allegation of systematic abuse made in the Tomlinson report. I welcome the Clifford Chance findings, which show no evidence of the serious and damaging allegation that we had set out to deliberately defraud our business customers.

"This allegation had a profound effect on the bank and on the work of a team that successfully turns round the vast majority of businesses that it works with. We could not let this allegation hang over us. That's why we acted quickly to appoint Clifford Chance to get to the truth of this claim. We are determined to earn back the trust of our customers."

The report is not the end of the matter. The Financial Conduct Authority has commissioned a "skilled persons review" into the wider question of whether RBS's small business customers are treated fairly. It is not expected to be complete until the end of the year.

Mr Tomlinson said he was "struggling to understand headlines that the Clifford Chance report gives RBS a clean bill of health, as their broader findings around the lack of fee transparency, lack of adherence to mandatory rules for internal valuations and need for an improvement in the business culture of GRG tally with the central themes of the Tomlinson report and the patterns of behaviour I witnessed".

Neil Mitchell, who heads an action group that plans to sue RBS over GRG, said he had not expected the report to find evidence of wrongdoing. "Now that it is published, we can get on with further exposures and actions planned on behalf of the over 2,000 cases now in circulation and seek retribution," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Orgtel are seeking Graduate Trainee Re...

HR Business Partner - Banking Finance - Brentwood - £45K

£45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: ** HR Business Partner - Senior H...

PA / Team Secretary - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: PA / Team Secretary - Mat...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz