RBS sell-off

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I was relieved to see your coverage of the sale of RBS shares (your report and editorial, 5 August).

The absence of letters comparing and contrasting the 14-year jail sentence for yet another “rogue trader” apparently ungoverned by management and the absence of sanctions for short changing of the taxpayer by the Chancellor seemed strange.

It implied acceptance of the Chancellor’s decision to sell to a chosen group at a discount from current prices.

No doubt we will not know, on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, whether those handling the disposal got into the spirit of things by cutting their fees.

So much for the Conservative mantras of “competition protects the consumer” and “the market knows best”.

But with the revolving door between Treasury and financial services matching that between defence and its suppliers, we should not be surprised that some are more equal than others.

One’s mind is drawn to Joseph Stiglitz’s thoughts on asymmetrical information situations, sometimes rendered by the less knowledgeable such as myself as bordering on insider trading.

There still seems scant regard for individual investors in all this. Government operations here and with its stake in Lloyds have a direct impact on them.

Quite apart from the RBS discount implying that the current market is too high, the investor has the unknowable risk of further ill-timed sales.

If he is hoping to realise his savings at what were current market prices, he may be in for a disappointment.

As for the Chancellor’s notion that he wants to return the bank to the private sector to avoid dangers of government interference is almost as interesting as his thought that it will do a good job.

The legacy issues seem to have been handled to preserve the inheritance.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road

Edinburgh

The Chancellor’s sell-off of the first tranche of UK Government shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland could not have been more poorly timed.

The predicted £1 billion loss on the price paid for the stake when the bank was bailed out demonstrates that we, the taxpayer, have been ridiculously short-changed. This is especially troubling given the fact that six months ago the shares traded at over 400p, whereas at their sale they were traded at 330p.

While the Chancellor aims to promote “financial stability” through this sale, it is difficult to see what sort of instability required it to be done so quickly, with the loss of £1bn for a 5 per cent holding.

The Chancellor must also justify why, given his current austerity agenda, he is able to so easily write off such a huge amount of money, equivalent to a twelfth of his proposed welfare cuts.

With the sell-off set against a background of cuts driving hundreds of thousands of children into poverty, it is clear austerity is not being driven by necessity, but by a cruel and vindictive political philosophy.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace

Edinburgh

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