By Mark Fairlie

FCA accused of putting interest of banks first after refusing to publish revealing RBS report

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has come under fire this week as they continue to delay the publication of their report on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Global Restructuring Group (RBS GRG).

The financial watchdog has been accused of putting the interests of the bank over the small businesses they allegedly mistreated in refusing to make their report public.

 “We need a regulator with teeth who is prepared to bite”

Conservative MP and co-chair of the Fair Business Banking Group, Kevin Hollinrake, has called for the FCA to publish their report “without delay”.

He continued to say that what was needed was a “regulator with teeth and who is prepared to bite. What we seem to have is a regulator who first seeks the approval of the banks they are regulating before acting.”

The report in question is in regard to a 2009 memo entitled ‘Just Hit Budget!’ which was circulated among RBS employees. Written by a junior manager of the bank, the memo gave tips as to how staff could trick GRG customers into spending more money.

Despite RBS bosses agreeing that they would not block the report, the FCA stated their reason for not being able to make it public as legally needing the consent of all potentially identifiable people in the report.

The watchdog was warned by an external barrister that, if they did publish the report, any individuals

mentioned within it could choose to sue them.

Internal board minutes from the FCA read: “External counsel’s advice led us to the conclusion that publication of the final report would expose the FCA to an unacceptable risk of successful legal action by current / former RBS managers for unfair treatment.”

What does the FCA report contain?

The full extent of RBS’ treatment of their customers remains unknown, with many relying on the publication of the FCA report to find out. Hollinrake added that it was “clear that many businesses and lives have been torn apart by RBS and the least the regulator could do is give these people access to the whole truth.”

An interim summary of the FCA’s RBS report has been published on their website, however, MP Clive Lewis has said this is only a “sanitised” version, having claimed to have seen a leaked copy of the full report.

Over the weekend, the unpublished document was leaked to media outlets across the country, and MPs have since demanded that the FCA publish the official report later this week in response.

Lewis said delaying the publication any longer was “completely unacceptable” for the “thousands of small and medium-sized businesses and their workers who deserve to know the truth about what RBS did.” 

Could the FCA be forced to publish the report?

Whilst the FCA has refused to comment, the Treasury Select Committee have threatened to force them to hand the report over to MPs in the next few days.

The head of the committee, Nicky Morgan, told the FCA that she would be sending them a “clear request to publish and a timescale”.

“Otherwise, I think it will be the case that the FCA will find that events overtake them in terms of publication,”

she said, reminding the FCA of the committee’s powers to compel publication.

The GRG Action Group was formed to represent the more than 500 businesses affected by RBS’ global restructuring group. A spokesperson for the collective said “if our call for the full publication of the FCA’s report has ever been more warranted, it is now.

“The evidence is clear: we need to see the full extent of what the victims were put through.”