FCA to publish RBS small business report in full

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Tuesday it will publish in full a report it commissioned on how a controversial unit of Royal Bank of Scotland treated small businesses in the past.

The FCA has come under extreme pressure from MPs to publish the report — having published only a summary so far.

The FCA said in a statement: “The FCA welcomes the statement by Royal Bank of Scotland, given at today’s Treasury Committee hearing, that they will not object to the FCA publishing the s166 report into the treatment of small and medium-sized enterprise customers transferred to its Global Restructuring Group.

“On this basis, we are content to publish the s166 report.

“To do so will also require the consent of those who provided the information in the report and any individuals who are identified.

“We will approach these individuals, once the work on the focused investigation is completed, to ask for their consent to publish.”

RBS’s current CEO Ross McEwan told MPs earlier on Tuesday that RBS would not object to the report being published in full.

McEwan also told the MPs that the RBS restructuring business did not turn around the “vast majority” of small businesses it worked with.

McEwan and RBS chairman Howard Davies were grilled by members of the UK’s Treasury Select Committee on the treatment by RBS of troubled small businesses during and after the last financial crisis.

RBS’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG) handled around 12,000 struggling firms between 2007 and 2012, some of which have accused RBS of pushing them into bankruptcy to pick up their assets on the cheap.

Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury committee, asked McEwan about a statement he made in 2014 after the publication of a report into GRG’s conduct by law firm Clifford Chance.

“I want to take you back Mr McEwan to a statement you made following the publication of the Clifford Chance report into GRG … In that statement you said, and I quote, that GRG ‘turns around the vast majority of businesses that it works with’. That isn’t true, that wasn’t true, was it?” Morgan said.

McEwan, who took up his job at RBS in 2013, replied: “In 2014, absolutely, when you look at the stats that have come through … it is not true.”

McEwan was referring to figures from a subsequent report into GRG conducted by consultants Promontory, which was commissioned by the FCA.

To date, the FCA has refused to publish the Promontory report in full.

McEwan told the committee he would inform Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, that if the regulator wished to publish the full report, RBS would not object.