Independent Banking Advisory Service
Established in 1992
Banking News & UK Comment 2018
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Last Modified: 20th February 2018
IBAS Comment: RBS published their profit in the same week as the GRG Report was finally published by the Treasury Select Committee. It is obvious that the GRG Report was ‘held back' by the FCA - I cannot see any other explanation than that was to assist the bank. The GRG Report made “tough reading” for Mr McEwan. He says: "We just didn't look after them well enough" - Try, you didn’t look after them at all - that would be much more accurate. The great number of businesses thrown into chaos and destruction by RBS and NatWest using the GRG Unit is totally inexcusable. The Report now shows that RBS/GRG ‘rip off’ tactics were neither ‘turnaround’ nor TCF but an organized bank strategy which would destroy thousands of businesses (now well documented) who were ‘herded’, lied to and cruelly sent to business ‘hell’ for the bank to exploit for profit and finally destroy (in many cases) all for fat profits and bonuses (yes, they were paid bonuses as well). Some of those targeted businesses had merely complained about their business managers.
Whilst Mr McEwan may not be personally responsible for those decisions - others were formulating those decisions and coordinating a systematic financial exploitation of UK Businesses in a targeted, sustained, mass looting and asset theft. The individuals responsible for those crimes against UK Businesses should now be held fully accountable. The definition of theft is: ‘A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it’.
It appears logical to many that the next actions against the RBS/NatWest GRG perpetrators (who thanks to the FCA have had another two years grace, whilst avoiding any responsibility) is that they face criminal prosecution/s. This debacle has a much wider value than the HBOS Reading fraud and has affected a great many more people and businesses - So, let’s see the RBS/NatWest GRG perpetrators ‘cut from the herd’ named and shamed and then properly dealt with - as until they are, this debacle will not be over. - 25th February 2018 - Eddy Weatherill - IBAS
See what RBS were saying in 2014 and also what the GRG whistleblower said - Among other revelations, the whistleblower claims:
"– GRG operatives were told to intercept payments from businesses and transfer the money instead to RBS to reduce the size of the businesses’ loans.
– GRG had complete control over customers’ accounts and weren’t answerable to any other part of the bank.
– GRG could oversee Natwest, RBS and Coutts customers, which technically they weren’t supposed to do, but which staff did anyway."
(IBAS Comment: On the 'other revelations'' above - we would endorse all of those from our experiences of NatWest and RBS GRG 'case files')
An RBS spokesperson said: “GRG successfully turns around the vast majority of businesses it works with." - That was completely untruthful - it was a minority!
(IBAS Comment: *the facts prove that RBS comment was a further completely untruthful 'smokescreen' as the Report published by the TSC on 20th February 2018 shows)
RBS reports first profit in 10 years - Royal Bank of Scotland has returned to profit for the first time in a decade whilst still facing a potentially massive fine.
The Treasury had to step in to bail RBS out for £45bn.
In 2013, Ross McEwan became chief executive, and he has turned the bank away from investment banking and towards UK High Street banking. At 269p, the RBS share price is still a long way below the 502p a share the government would need to break even on the billions of pounds it spent bailing out the bank a decade ago. "We have been constantly hit with the sins of the past with conduct and litigation issues and I've been heavily restructuring the business to bring it back to the UK," Mr McEwan said. On Tuesday, after months of wrangling, MPs released a report by the financial regulator which said a unit of RBS mistreated thousands of small firms. The Global Restructuring Group (GRG) was marketed as an expert service that could save a business, but according to the report took "inappropriate" action. Mr McEwan said the report "did make for really tough reading". "We did not get it right for customers at the time they needed us when their businesses were struggling," he said. "We just didn't look after them well enough".- 23rd February 2018 - BBC Business News
IBAS Comment: At last some common sense. Well done Nicky Morgan and her committee. The TSC have seen for themselves just how disgraceful RBS/GRG conduct was and purely for profits. Numerous businesses have been ripped off - their owners and directors commercially and then personally financially destroyed (whilst feeling completely impotent) and purely because of profiteering and a rogue unit's 'secret agenda' - whilst the 'regulators' (and that includes the FOS who should have seen what was going on from the NatWest/RBS cases sent to them) sat firmly on their hands - another PPI type rip off finally exposed for what it was! Now - that mess needs clearing up. - 20th February 2018
If they were unable to meet this deadline, the Committee ordered the FCA to send the report to the Committee by the same date. The FCA did not publish the report on 16 February, so therefore sent it to the Committee.
The Committee has today agreed to publish the final, unredacted report immediately.
Commenting on the publication, Mrs Morgan said:
"The findings in the report are disgraceful. The overarching priority at all levels of GRG was not the health and strength of customers, but the generation of income for RBS, through made-up fees, high interest rates, and the acquisition of equity and property.
The Committee has not taken the decision to publish lightly. Normally, reports prepared under section 166 are confidential, but there is overwhelming public interest in bringing transparency to what happened at GRG, given the earlier leak of the report, and in ensuring that everyone can see, and know that they are seeing, an authentic and verified copy of Promontory’s original report.
We have today published the terms of reference for our inquiry into SME finance. We’ll examine what must change to prevent what occurred at GRG from ever happening again, and how to restore confidence among SMEs in banks as a source of finance. I encourage all those with views to submit evidence.
As well as continuing to monitor the FCA’s further investigation into GRG, we’ll keep a close eye on RBS’ Complaints Process to determine whether it is providing the fair and reasonable compensation that has been promised to mistreated customers. Any person referred to in the report is invited to make any observations to the Committee." - 20th February 2018 - TSC
MPs use parliamentary privilege to publish report on 'disgraceful' RBS unit - The Treasury Committee cites "overwhelming public interest" in releasing the full report on the bank's treatment of small firms. MPs have taken the unusual step of using parliamentary privilege to publish a regulator's full report on Royal Bank of Scotland's controversial Global Restructuring Group (GRG).The Treasury Select Committee had demanded the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) publish, or hand over, the unredacted version by Friday last week. Only a limited summary had previously been disclosed. While the watchdog did comply, it still refused to publish the whole document it had commissioned, continuing to cite a lack of legal consents.The chair of the powerful committee, Nicky Morgan MP, confirmed on Tuesday that it had unanimously agreed to publish the document given "overwhelming" public interest.She described the findings as"disgraceful".- 20th February 2018 - Sky News
'Secret' report into RBS published - After months of wrangling, MPs have released a report by the financial regulator which said a unit of RBS mistreated thousands of small firms. The Global Restructuring Group (GRG) was marketed as an expert service that could save a business, but according to the report took "inappropriate" action. Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee, said the findings in the report were "disgraceful". RBS said it was "deeply sorry" for its treatment of businesses in the GRG. The contents of the report were first disclosed by the BBC in August last year. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had refused to publish the report, blaming legal reasons, but after a meeting, MPs on the Treasury Committee voted to publish it. Ms Morgan said MPs had not taken the decision to publish lightly, as normally such reports are confidential. However, she said there was an "overwhelming" public interest in its publication. "The findings in the report are disgraceful. The overarching priority at all levels of GRG was not the health and strength of customers, but the generation of income for RBS, through made-up fees, high interest rates, and the acquisition of equity and property," she said. The GRG operated from 2005 to 2013 and at its peak handled 16,000 companies. Companies were referred to it when they skipped a loan repayment or suffered a significant drop in sales or profits.- 20th February 2018 - BBC Business News
Santander bosses engulfed in RBS scandal fallout: Pair were overseeing controversial division that plundered troubled small firms for fees. The Mail on Sunday last week revealed damning details from a suppressed report into abuses of small firms by GRG, which was supposed to help troubled businesses back to health but preyed on them instead. Two of the senior managers overseeing GRG at the time are now at Santander – where they are trying to beef up the bank’s lending to small firms.
Sach revealed in evidence to the Treasury Select Committee in 2014: ‘Mr Sullivan and others sit on what we call the Executive Committee of GRG, so there is considerable oversight of what we do within the bank.’ Sullivan has become a target for GRG victims because he told the Treasury Select Committee the division was ‘unequivocally...a cost centre’ for the bank.
But the leaked report, by independent experts at research firm Promontory, said that GRG was a profit centre. Sullivan was the executive RBS used following the crisis to push the argument it was still lending to small businesses, even as it foreclosed on thousands of them.
The Mail on Sunday last week revealed the findings of the report, which lifted the lid on RBS’s bullying and exploitation of its vulnerable customers. In one case bankers plotted to help themselves to the stock of a bankrupt shop. Another memo urged bankers to let some customers ‘hang themselves’.
The FCA could in theory decide that Bostock or Sullivan are not ‘fit and proper’ people to hold senior roles in a British bank. The Promontory report carried a foreword by its chairman, Sir Callum McCarthy, who chaired the Financial Services Authority before the crisis.
In the foreword to the full report, he backs calls for an independent Ombudsman or Tribunal for small firms in conflict with their banks, for which The Mail on Sunday has been campaigning. He said small businesses should have ‘wider access to independent dispute resolution and redress’.
The Treasury select committee will this week decide whether to publish the full report into RBS in what could prove to be another parade of its worst failings. Once that is done, the real business of finding the bankers accountable for the behaviour will begin. - 17th February 2018 - Financial Mail on Sunday
While he has previously pleaded the full report should not be placed in the pubic domain - at least not yet - the committee is to meet on Tuesday to decide its next move. Mrs Morgan said: "At that meeting, I will be asking members to agree to publish the final, unredacted report under parliamentary privilege as soon as possible." - 16th February 2018 - Sky News Business
IBAS Comment: Having now seen the Full Report, we understand Mr Bailey's desire to withold it (and continue to do so) until he was 'forced' to release it.
Hopefully, the Treasury Select Committee will now release the S166 Report for everybody to digest, as there is no doubt that RBS/GRG was a rogue outfit with a profit centre - plundering UK businesses who had the audacity to even question or complain about the bank's service or fees in any way (as that 'complaint' was enough for RBS or NatWest to transfer their customer's accounts into GRG).
Mr Bailey and the FCA as Regulator for banking does not come through this debacle with any credibility, nor does the failure evidenced increase confidence in the FCA. The reverse is the case as 'common sense' and conduct issues appears to have been sadly lacking. IBAS was aware of the RBS and NatWests desire to use complaints as a 'platform for plundering' by GRG many years ago and if we were aware of it - that should also have been apparent to the FOS, had they looked deeply enough or investigated the RBS NatWest business complaints they received.
Now it's been documented by Promontory and 'signed off' by Callum McCarthy, maybe, the FCA and Government will take this matter more seriously. RBS NatWest GRG deceptions were carried on for far too long, without intervention or any actions by the regulator, despite the lack of any TCF by GRG (as has now been documented by Promontory). The FOS has not proved capable of business banking investigations (the necessity of the Tomlinson Report showed that) and the FOS further failure in this debacle may also be due to the numbers of ex bank employees who also have bank pensions with bank allegiances within the FOS 'system'. UK businesses deserve better and now require an Independent Tribunal not the FOS. - 18th February 2018 - Eddy Weatherill - IBAS
Mr Baileyʼs comments after the RBS GRG review were that it (the review) also recommended that small businesses are given more protection in their largely unregulated dealings with banks which "highlighted a gap in support for smaller businesses with genuine grievances about business banking conduct issues that could benefit from impartial assessment and quick resolution".
FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey said it was investigating the report and "focussing on whether there is any basis for further action within our powers".
He also pointed to the lack of regulation under which it (The FCA) might act and said: "Commercial lending activity is largely unregulated in the UK, and there are no 'conduct of business' rules against which to assess GRG's treatment of SME customers.
"We expect high standards from the firms we regulate, but we cannot set or enforce these high standards in areas of unregulated activity carried on by these firms.
"The FCA will make a constructive contribution if invited to do so by lawmakers but ultimately it is for Parliament to consider and approve recommendations about widening our statutory remit."
So, the Government, who effectively owns 70% of this bank and already knows the review has been delayed (repeatedly) and ʻsanitizedʼ to allow RBS to reorganise and to dilute the claims against it (whilst the customers destroyed by this bank are left to wither, wait and die) again allows this bank to continue to deceive itʼs customers and the Treasury Select Committee members, even when the bank has been caught with its ʻhands in the customers pocketsʼ (repeatedly) and many businesses have already ʻdiedʼ and also been dissolved.
Back in that sunny summer of 2014, there was some really strong live sport on for financial journalists. It was the infamous appearance, on Tuesday 17th June, of Derek Sach and Chris Sullivan at the Treasury Select Committee (TSC). (Q526 to Q656 on RBS/GRG)
Chris Sullivan helped to identify which businesses were ripe for harvest:-
It will be formed by a combination of the relationship manager who will see an event, some deterioration in business performance, a particular contract that is lost, excessive use of overdraft, excessive limits, behaviour that is generally— [interruption]
It would be very easy to blame the senior managers, but the culture is carried out by the boots on the ground. In fact, another bank, HBOS, took the decidedly cowardly option of blaming “bad apples” / “boots on the ground” on the Reading Six fiasco which resulted in criminal convictions and porridge for their staff. - P.C. Dettmann - Z Review - 9th August 2017
The Overall Business Principles 1-11 published by the FSA Handbook (as excerpt shown below) stated:
The FSA have 11 Principles which are general statements of the main regulatory obligations that apply to every authorised firm. The Principles set out in simple terms the high level standards that all firms must meet.
If your firm contravenes one or more of the Principles, it could face enforcement action, this could, for example, result in your firmʼs authorisation being removed.
It is vital that you are aware of these Principles and ensure your firm implements them and continually reviews that these standards are being maintained.
The FSA has a wide range of powers at its disposal to enforce adherence to the principles including withdrawal of approval for regulated businesses, prohibition of individuals, interventions, fines, public censures and private warnings.
FSA Principles of Business
1. Integrity - A firm must conduct its business with integrity.
2. Skill, care and diligence - A firm must conduct its business with due skill, care and diligence.
3. Management and control - A firm must take reasonable care to organise and control its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems.
4. Financial prudence - A firm must maintain adequate financial resources.
5. Market conduct - A firm must observe proper standards of market conduct.
6. Customersʼ interests - A firm must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly.
7. Communications with clients - A firm must pay due regard to the information needs of its clients and communicate information to them in a way which is clear, fair and not misleading.
8.Conflicts of interest - A firm must manage conflicts of interest fairly, both between itself and its customers and between a customer and another client.
9. Customers: relationships of trust - A firm must take reasonable care to ensure the suitability of its advice and discretionary decisions for any customer who is entitled to rely upon its judgement.
10. Clientsʼ assets - A firm must arrange adequate protection for clientsʼassets when it is responsible for them.
11. Relations with regulators - A firm must deal with its regulators in an open and co-operative way and must disclose to the FSA anything relating to the firm of which the FSA would reasonably expect notice.
Treating Customers Fairly - The way forward as outlined in the FSA 26.03.09 speech
The FCA ʻtook overʼ Banking Regulation in 2012 from the FSA and the FSA Principles were then adopted by the FCA - but where is the evidence of RB STreating Customers Fairly now - where is the evidence of the Conduct result from the “more intrusive supervision on conduct issues, and a more cohesive assessment of conduct issues and risks to fair treatment of customers posed by the firm.” - with regards RBS and GRG?
Mr Bailey now reflects on: “whether there is any basis for further action within our powers” and “pointed to the lack of regulation under which it (The FCA) might act”.
Does he not consider that RBS and GRG's institutional deception and thefts from the many UK Businesses has breached the very core of the Overall Business Principles 1-11? on which the ʻFSA has a wide range of powers at its disposal to enforce adherence to the principles including withdrawal of approval for regulated businesses, prohibition of individuals, interventions, fines, public censures and private warnings.ʼ - that comment (as published by the FSA handbook) applied to the FSA at that time - surely the FCA must have a much wider remit now?
Exactly how much more evidence does Mr Bailey require to do something of any merit for UK Business to protect them from further banking abuses?
Having seen a good number of RBS cases since RBS Specialised Lending Services was replaced by GRG around 1992 - the editorial 3 Years On RBS GRG - Where Are They Now? is a fair comment on what IBAS know was ‘direct targeting’ of businesses by the RBS and where bonuses were used to encourage RBS managers to ‘drive’ businesses into GRG’s clutches. By ‘introducing’ GRG the bank knew they could immediately exploit that position and impose much higher interest rates, costs and fees and also effectively ‘take over’ the business.
This process became systemic as profits rolled in for the bank. GRG inflicted higher interest rates, costs and exorbitant fees immediately on businesses where they were ‘introduced’ and those higher charges and fees were ‘taken’ without notice, despite protestations about ‘cash flow’ being eroded. GRG actions proved in the end to be for the benefit of the bank in short term profiteering whilst many businesses were driven into insolvency.
Insolvency of the business then meant that business assets and property could be ‘taken’ cheaply by the bank to exploit the then distressed assets.
There is no doubt in our mind that Britain’s banks have made profit from distress or that the issues raised by GRG cases (along with the issues of SWAPS and PPI compensations) evidence a systematic plundering of UK business by the UK Banking Sector.
RBS misinformation and denial of information to it’s business customers has also been an ongoing and repetitive issue which IBAS has observed in case files since the launch of RBS GRG.
There is no doubt from the many case files seen over time that GRG was used (and that may well be evidenced in the full report when it is published) to ‘push ‘ vulnerable businesses ‘over the edge’ and that GRG was deliberately levying excessive fees and additional ‘fictional’ costs (which were not justified or properly documented) onto businesses whilst the customer was also repeatedly deceived by RBS and GRG staff into believing that they were going to be ‘saved’ by GRG.
The word ʻunregulatedʼ appears to be used as an excuse by Mr Bailey and the FCA to continue doing nothing for UK Businesses - when they are already aware that UK Businesses have been faced with ʻmafia typeʼ business practices and profiteering which go back to 1992 when GRG was formed and that other banks (seeing the success of GRG on increased profits for RBS) have copied and adopted the RBS GRG methods.
Wake up Mr Bailey - enough of the time wasting - act now - before the FCA gathers even more contagion from the RBS GRG deceptions - 15th February 2018 - Eddy Weatherill - IBAS
• Senior GRG managers were at the heart of a plan to plunder small firms for cash
• A release of emails show 'an undue focus by management on fee generation'
An official report into RBS's Global Restructuring Group found emails that put senior managers at the heart of a plan to plunder small firms for cash.
The FCA report's authors, financial research firm Promontory, said they made a decision early on in their review to look at appraisals of staff.
'This followed the release of various emails suggesting an undue focus by management on fee generation early in the relevant period,' the full unpublished report says.
An official report into RBS's Global Restructuring Group found emails that put senior managers at the heart of a plan to plunder small firms for cash.
The finding that priority was being given to squeezing fees out of customers, who they should have been helping back to financial health was included in a previous summary of the report.
But, in a highly significant omission, separate conclusions that management knew or should have known of the issue were excised from the published FCA summary.
The full Promontory dossier contains copious detail on reports produced for the GRG board.
These 'board packs' had a greater focus on financial considerations than on 'returning customers to satisfactory' – in other words, they paid more attention to making money for the bank than on saving firms. - 11th February 2018 This is Money News
• Derek Sach left RBS in 2015 and has been advising private equity firm CVC
• He was the mastermind behind GRG's handling of small and medium firms
• GRG plundered small firms for cash - an FCA investigation is ongoing
The former boss of RBS's notorious Global Restructuring Group has raked in hundreds of thousands of pounds in consultancy fees since leaving the taxpayer-backed bank.
Derek Sach left RBS in 2015 and has been advising private equity firm CVC on its investments. He books his advice fees through a personal service company – and its accounts show it now has £323,430 in cash at the bank.
Sach was the mastermind behind the bank's handling of small and medium firms within the GRG unit, from which few emerged.
A report into its activities by City regulators has found that instead of nursing firms back to health, RBS bankers focused on plundering them for fees.
The FCA had previously published only a short summary, which omits the findings that management knew or should have known about the widespread mistreatment of clients.
FCA chief Andrew Bailey said last month he would publish the report once the FCA had finished its investigation and given those criticised a chance to respond.
Its publication will turn up the heat on former bosses. Sach ran the GRG and his boss was Nathan Bostock, who now runs Santander UK.
Chris Sullivan ran the corporate banking division for much of the period concerned. He now has a similar role at Santander.
Stephen Hester was the overall head of RBS and now runs insurer RSA.
The FCA has said its investigation is almost complete and a decision on whether to take action could be announced within weeks. - 11th February 2018 This is Money News
FCA given deadline to publish RBS report - RBS's restructuring arm is accused of intentionally pushing small businesses towards failure to pick up their assets cheaply. The City watchdog has been given a deadline to publish its report into RBS's controversial Global Restructuring Group.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been criticised for delaying the release of the report, which looks into allegations that the bank - still more than 70% taxpayer owned - mistreated small business customers. Only a summary has been published so far, although the full version has been leaked to the media and some MPs.
Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan has called on Andrew Bailey, FCA chief executive, to publish the report or send a full copy to the committee by 16 February. Mrs Morgan said: "A version of the report is in the hands of third parties, it has been selectively reported by the media, and it may enter the public domain at any time.
"The FCA has lost control over the timing or content of further public disclosures from it. "For these reasons, the committee has requested that the FCA publish the final definitive version of the report, or send it to the committee, by Friday 16 February.
Mr Bailey said publishing the report without the legal checks sets a worrying precedent and he asked MPs not to do so using their parliamentary privilege.
The FCA is also conducting a further investigation into RBS, which Mr Bailey described as "well advanced" and weeks away from a conclusion. - 7th February 2018 Sky News
Revealed: State-backed RBS's role in collapse of Carillion - The taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) tightened the terms of its funding to the stricken Government contractor Carillion three days before it was forced to call in liquidators. According to Mr Cochrane's witness statement, RBS informed Carillion last Friday that it wanted the company to pre-fund supplier payments made through the bank, which meant it would need to make those payments two days earlier than cashﬂow forecasts had assumed.
He said this negatively impacted Carillion's liquidity by between £2m and £20m. RBS, he added, insisted that this revised arrangement "would be in place until support from [the Government] had been agreed and that the terms of this support would determine whether other uncommitted facilities with RBS would be withdrawn".
RBS is not the only lender to Carillion singled out in Mr Cochrane's witness statement.
Carillion was left with just £29m before going bankrupt - Carillion was in talks with the government since October as part of a desperate bid to stave off collapse, according to the chief executive. Keith Cochrane says the construction giant was left with just £29m in cash by the time it went bust on Monday.
Until the last moments, directors still believed a rescue was possible, but banks became more demanding, he said.
The details are included in a document Mr Cochrane has prepared as part of the insolvency process. - 17th January 2018 BBC Business News
Eddy Weatherill says: "2018 - New Year - New Threat to Construction and services. The collapse of Carillion will also mean the collapse of a great number of small business suppliers to Carillion in the construction and service industry sectors, as their business bankers put pressure on them to pay their company debts, created by Carillion's lack of payment and subsequent insolvency. Small businesses/SME's will now be placed under very severe bank pressure/s for payment of bank guarantees/Directors Personal Guarantees and bank mortgages".
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