RBS last-minute settlement bid before court hearing

Fred Goodwin

UPDATE 2 — Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is attempting to reach a last-minute settlement with a group of investors who allege that the bank misled them over a £12 billion rights issue in 2008.

RBS is trying to settle the dispute before a potentially embarrassing court hearing goes head.

The civil trial brought by thousands of RBS investors was due to open at the High Court in London on Monday but was adjourned for 24 hours to allow the settlement talks to continue.

Jonathan Nash, a lawyer representing the claimants, said the parties were in settlement talks and wanted more time to reach a deal.

“We are involved in settlement discussions and we are hopeful of making progress,” Nash said.

There was speculation late on Monday that the trial may be adjourned for a second day in a row while an eleventh-hour settlement is thrashed out.

RBS is said to be offering the shareholders 82p a share, almost double the 43.2p share it had previously offered, according to reports.

A settlement would save RBS from a lengthy trial at which its former CEO Fred Goodwin would face tough questions.

The civil trial brought by thousands of RBS investors was due to open on Monday with the plaintiffs alleging the bank’s former executives misled them over RBS’s financial health ahead of the rights issue in 2008.

Just months after the rights issue, RBS had to be rescued by the UK government with a £45.8 billion bailout.

RBS, still more than 70% state-owned, denies any wrongdoing over the 2008 rights issue and says that its former bosses did not act illegally.

The bank has settled with 87% of investors who originally brought the case.

The remaining group of investors includes 9,000 retail shareholders and 20 institutional investors, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Boeing pension fund, and some British council pension funds.