An influential group of MPs has branded the findings of a report into the Royal Bank of Scotland’s mistreatment of small businesses “disgraceful” after wielding parliamentary privilege to publish the controversial dossier.
The Treasury Select Committee (TSC) said there was “overwhelming public interest” in shifting the Global Restructuring Group (GRG) report into the public domain after it was widely leaked online and through social media.
The move came after Andrew Bailey, head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), was ordered by the TSC earlier this month to publish the document on GRG, the banking giant’s much-criticised restructuring arm.
However, he said the release “proved impossible” for legal reasons.
RBS has been dogged by allegations that GRG pushed small businesses towards failure in the hope of picking up their assets on the cheap.
In a statement, TSC chair Nicky 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.
“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.”
The report by Promontory Financial Group found that there was “widespread inappropriate treatment of customers” inside the GRG unit.
However, it said there was no evidence that “defaults were engineered to transfer businesses to GRG simply to generate revenue for RBS through fees”.
It said the failings were not “one-off errors of staff” at an institution “under significant pressure”, but were sparked by GRG governance standards falling short.
The release follows the publication of previously undisclosed memos last month showing GRG staff being encouraged to apply pressure and extract money from customers.
One memo, entitled Just Hit Budget! - which was written in 2009 - talks of applying particularly high interest rates, which could then be reduced if customers signed over a stake in their business or property, and detailed how staff sometimes “need to let customers hang themselves”.
A spokesman for RBS said the report made for “very difficult reading” and it was “deeply sorry” that customers did not get the experience they should have done.