Judge abandons RBS trial after most shareholders accept settlement deal

Royal Bank of Scotland. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Royal Bank of Scotland. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
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A high-profile trial of an action by thousands of shareholders against Royal Bank of Scotland will not go ahead after settlement of the bulk of the claims.

At a hearing at the High Court in London yesterday, a judge was told that a settlement deal had been agreed by 87 per cent “by value” of claimants.

Jonathan Nash QC, for the investors, said it was hoped and “anticipated” that the remaining “undecided” 13 per cent would also accept the offer.

He applied to Mr Justice Hildyard for the trial to be “vacated” in the light of the latest development.

His application was supported by a QC representing RBS.

The judge acceded to the request but left the door open for “restoration of the hearing” if negotiations failed to reach full settlement and some claimants decided they wished to pursue the litigation in court and had the means to do so.

The legal action centred on a rights issue overseen by former boss Fred Goodwin in April 2008 when RBS asked existing shareholders to pump £12 billion into the bank after leading a consortium that spent £49bn on Dutch lender ABN Amro.

Shareholders claimed they were left nursing hefty losses following the cash call after RBS shares plunged 90 per cent and the government was forced to step in with a £45.5bn bailout when the deal turned toxic.

A trial would have seen disgraced former chief executive Mr Goodwin, who was stripped of his knighthood following the bank’s near collapse, face questioning in court.

Mr Justice Hildyard said that in order for a trial to be held in the future “the court would require to be persuaded that further deployment of very considerable resources was justified”.

He urged that if there were to be any application to restore the trial, it should be done “the sooner the better so that the court may determine what it can do to assist”.

RBS said in a statement: “87 per cent of the remaining claimants by value have accepted the settlement offer and the trial has now been vacated.”

A spokesman for the RBS Shareholder Action Group said: “This settlement with RBS comes after many years of campaigning for compensation on behalf of those who lost out in 2008.

“In that time, we have been forced to endure many struggles, including having to fund and run an entire case when the other claimants settled early. Our decision and resolve to press on has been vindicated by this settlement, which is twice that accepted by others who had much greater resources than us.”