Review finds no evidence that RBS set out to defraud its business customers

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Royal Bank of Scotland said yesterday that an independent review by law firm Clifford Chance has found no evidence that it set out to defraud its business customers.

The bank, which is 81 per cent-owned by the government, commissioned the review after a government adviser accused it of pushing struggling small firms into its ‘turnaround’ unit, so it could charge higher fees and take control of their assets.

“I welcome the Clifford Chance findings which show no evidence of the serious and damaging allegation that we had set out to deliberately defraud our business customers,” chief executive Ross McEwan said yesterday.

Lawrence Tomlinson, who serves as an ‘entrepreneur-in-residence’ at government minister Vince Cable’s business department, said RBS had engineered businesses into default in order to move them into its Global Restructuring Group, enabling it to generate revenue through higher fees and the purchase of devalued assets by its property division, West Register.

In response to the Clifford Chance report, RBS said it would wind down and sell any assets in West Register.

The bank said the report found some cases where customers felt its fees were not clear and a handful of customers had made allegations about the behaviour of bank staff. RBS said it was investigating those cases.

McEwan said GRG had successfully turned round the vast majority of businesses which it worked with, while dealing with billions of bad loans built up by reckless lending in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.