RBS reaches $4.9 billion settlement over toxic bonds

Library image of Royal Bank of Scotland's head office Photo: Johnny Green/PA Wire
Library image of Royal Bank of Scotland's head office Photo: Johnny Green/PA Wire
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Royal Bank of Scotland has agreed a $4.9bn settlement with US regulators over claims it mis-sold toxic mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis.

The taxpayer-backed lender said the penalty with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) was a “milestone” for the group, ending a long-running probe and paving the way for the Government to relaunch plans to sell its 72 per cent stake in the bank.

RBS said $3.46bn, £2.5bn, of the proposed civil settlement will be covered by existing provisions and the bank will take a $1.44bn US dollar hit in its second quarter results.

But the settlement still needs to be finalised, with further details set to be negotiated.

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said: “Today’s announcement is a milestone moment for the bank. Reaching this settlement in principle with the US Department of Justice will, when finalised, allow us to deal with this significant remaining legacy issue and is the price we have to pay for the global ambitions pursued by this bank before the crisis.”

The latest settlement follows a $5.5bn US penalty agreed with the Federal Housing Finance Agency last July.

The settlements have weighed heavily on the bank amid fears over the size of the deals, with other banks having forked out mammoth sums.

RBS is one of the last to settle with US regulators, following rival Barclays, which agreed a $2bn agreement in March with the DoJ and Deutsche Bank, which struck a $7.2bn settlement at the end of 2016.

It has also been a major hurdle to the bank’s return to private hands, with the Government having said the US mis-selling claims need to be resolved before it can start to sell its shares in the lender.

Shares in RBS surged 4 per cent after the overnight settlement announcement.

Mr McEwan said the deal “makes it easier for the Government to have a clean bank to sell”.

He added: “This item hanging over a stock of our nature makes it more difficult to sell. This will help the Government to sell a cleaner bank.”

But he stressed the decision on how and when to sell down the stake is “definitely in their (the Government’s) hands”.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said he welcomed the agreement in principle, saying that, when finalised, it would remove a major uncertainty for the UK taxpayer.