CLAIMS of poor treatment by Royal Bank of Scotland of small business customers were brought to the attention of the UK government several years before its “entrepreneur in residence” made them public, according to the head of a lobby group.
Roger Pedder, president of the European Family Businesses group, said he approached the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) three years ago with two cases in which he felt the bank had forced companies out of business.
He heard nothing until Lawrence Tomlinson published his damning report last year. Tomlinson, the department’s entrepreneur in residence, claimed he had uncovered evidence alleging that RBS deliberately forced companies into default to seize their properties.
Tomlinson is taking 1,000 cases of alleged abusive practice to the Financial Conduct Authority, although his original report has been challenged by another dossier commissioned by RBS. Pedder told Scotland on Sunday he had brought such practices to the attention of the government three years ago.
“We had already told BIS that this was going on, but it took a whistleblower to expose it several years later,” he said. He did not name the firms in question but said they were a property group and a construction company, and both were forced out of business by having their assets sold off at knock-down rates by the bank.
Pedder, a former chairman of shoe firm Clarks, said he was not in Scotland “to bash RBS” – but to deliver a positive message on the family business sector at an event hosted by accountancy firm KPMG.
A BIS spokesman said: “We take allegations around the way banks treat small business very seriously. The Tomlinson report was the first time allegations of widespread and systematic mistreatment of small businesses were brought to our attention. We acted on this urgently and have ensured that all evidence he gathered has been referred to the regulators, who are investigating.”