RBS bosses accused of misleading Parliament

Royal Bank of Scotland executives have been accused of misleading Parliament over the lender's mistreatment of small businesses at the hands of its controversial restructuring unit.

Ross McEwan, chief executive of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, has been accused of misleading MPs over the company's business restructuring unit. Picture: TSPL

Labour’s Clive Lewis, who has seen an unredacted copy of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) investigation into RBS, said it states the bank’s behaviour was “systemic and widespread”.

The shadow Treasury minister now believes that RBS executives, including chief executive Ross McEwan and chairman Sir Howard Davies, “misled the Treasury Select Committee in their evidence and had a stated policy of misleading members of this House”.

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The duo were subjected to an hours-long grilling in front of the committee last week, where MPs asked who was ultimately to blame for the failings of behaviour at RBS’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG).

The state-backed lender has been dogged by allegations that it intentionally pushed small businesses towards failure in the hope of picking up their assets on the cheap.

“Far from being isolated incidents of poor governance as they claimed to the committee, this report explicitly states their behaviour was ‘systemic and widespread’,” Mr Lewis said.

He continued: “In one shocking passage of the report out of hundreds the bank boasted one family business was set to ‘lose their shirts’ so RBS could get a ‘chunky equity deal’.

“Furthermore it is clear the summary of the report the FCA has published is what I would politely describe as a sanitised version.”

The FCA is still investigating whether to take further action over the unit’s actions between 2008 and 2011 after publishing a summary report into GRG last year.

The MP has asked for permission to hand over the leaked full report to the Treasury Committee ahead of its hearing with FCA boss Andrew Bailey on Wednesday.

The committee, chaired by Nicky Morgan, has been pressing the FCA to publish the RBS report in full for months.

A spokesman for the GRG Business Action Group, which represents more than 500 businesses put into financial distress under the division, said: “What Clive Lewis said in Parliament today is extremely worrying and surely makes immediate publication of the FCA report an urgent priority in the public interest.

“In view of the FCA’s repeated assurances that it is not favouring RBS, this is a shocking allegation. Andrew Bailey will have to explain himself before the Treasury Select Committee tomorrow.

“We were advised last week that we might still have to wait another six months before the full report is published. In view of Mr Lewis’s intervention, that time-frame is surely untenable.”

An RBS spokesman said: “The evidence we provided to the Treasury Committee accurately reflected the bank’s position. We are not clear on what basis the allegations are being made, but we would strongly deny the suggestion that we misled the committee.”