RBS chief’s talks with investors fail to produce settlement

Fred Goodwin could still be required to give evidence in a trial relating to the near-collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) amid a continuing stalemate between the lender and thousands of small shareholders.

Sky News has learnt that a meeting between Ross McEwan, RBS’s chief executive, and directors of the RBoS Shareholder Action Group took place on Friday aimed at reaching a final settlement between the two sides.

Insiders said that the talks, which took place at RBS’s London offices, concluded without an agreement after Mr McEwan declined to increase a financial offer to the remaining claimants.

The action group, which indicated at the beginning of the week that a majority of its 9000 members had backed an 82p-a-share deal, is now scrambling to raise £7m to fund itself through the anticipated 14-week trial – which is due to kick off in five days’ time.

Sources said it had raised roughly £4m so far from unidentified contributors.

RBS had hoped that at least 70% of the claimants by value would accept the settlement, which would have made it binding upon all of the participants.

It was unclear exactly what proportion of the claimants by value had indicated their willingness to accept, with the trial due to begin next Wednesday.

The judge in the case has already adjourned it three times amid ongoing settlement talks.

While an 82p-a-share deal with the outstanding claimants would have cost RBS more than £200m, some observers believe the bank should have offered a higher sum in order to draw a line under the case.

If the trial does go ahead, it would be among the most keenly awaited events to follow on from Britain’s banking crisis of 2008, with former RBS boss Mr Goodwin expected to spend two days in the witness box.

Mr Goodwin, who was ousted as RBS’s boss as it was being bailed out with £45bn of taxpayers’ money in 2008, has never given a full public account of the crisis at the bank.

Earlier that year, he oversaw a £12bn rights issue aimed at shoring up the bank’s balance sheet – a fundraising that investors claim was based on misleading information.

Many of the former shareholders, some of whom rank among RBS’s current workforce, have accepted an 82p-a-share offer made last month, while a number of other claimant groups had settled for just over 40p-a-share.

Others, however, are determined to see Mr Goodwin and his former senior colleagues appear in court.

Mr Goodwin, along with Sir Tom McKillop, the former RBS chairman, are named alongside the state-backed bank as defendants in the case.

The Government continues to own more than 70% of the bank, and there is little prospect of it ever recouping the money it paid to avert its outright collapse.

To date, more than £100m has been spent by the bank defending the claims, a bill which includes the legal costs of Mr Goodwin and other former directors.

Those legal fees have drawn criticism from investors and politicians, but were defended by Sir Howard Davies, RBS’s chairman, at its annual meeting earlier this month.

Sir Vince Cable, who was business secretary in the 2010-15 coalition government, described the legal bill as “obscene”.

RBS and a spokesman for the action group declined to comment.

Posted on by CCKeith in Uncategorized
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