RBS' mis-selling fine is certain to highlight American hypocrisy, Worldpay's bid invitation and no rush for the new Ofcom chair

 
Mark Kleinman
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RBS will accept the fine, and move on to another substantial penalty from the Department of Justice (Source: Getty)

It was hard to suppress a laugh last week at the sanctimonious angst of corporate America at the fine doled out by Brussels over Google’s anti-competitive behaviour by favouring its shopping service over those of rivals.

Those Europeans, came the wailing from across the Atlantic, are extracting money from flagship US companies with little justification.

Pull the other one. US regulators have been using the pretext of banking misconduct to appropriate economic value from British and other European lenders for most of the last decade.

In some cases, that pretext has been flimsy – but it continues regardless.

Royal Bank of Scotland is (yet again) about to become the latest recipient of that approach when it settles with the Federal Housing Finance Agency over the mis-selling of toxic mortgage bonds.

An agreement, I’m told, could come as soon as today – although some insiders think next week is more likely.

With lawyers still wrangling over finer details, it could even be delayed further.

RBS will accept the fine, and move on to another substantial penalty from the Department of Justice.

American companies should learn to swallow their misconduct medicine in similarly stoical fashion.

Read more: Another RBS trial: Small firm "scared" into buying interest rate swaps

Worldpay’s bid invitation

So which was it?

Tuesday’s statement from Worldpay Group that it was in receipt of takeover approaches from Vantiv, a US competitor, and JP Morgan Chase sent shares in the FTSE 100 company soaring on expectations of a bidding war.

Yet little more than an hour after Worldpay and Vantiv announced the following day that they had agreed the key terms of a merger, JP Morgan said it would not proceed with an offer.

The intriguing thing about the American bank’s statement, though, was not its withdrawal, but its clarification that it been “invited” by Worldpay to make an offer.

That wasn’t the impression given by Worldpay, which clearly wanted investors to believe it had received simultaneous, coincidental and unsolicited approaches.

If, indeed, it was trying to create an auction, that’s nothing to be ashamed of – but the apparent obfuscation has left shareholders more than a little befuddled.

It’s an area of the Takeover Code that might require a fresh pair of eyes, and some tougher policing.

Read more: Vantiv beats JP Morgan in £7.7bn Worldpay takeover bid

No rush for new Ofcom chair

The UK still languishes embarrassingly in international league tables of average broadband speeds, so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that ministers are taking a similarly leisurely approach to finding a new head of the communications regulator.

Dame Patricia Hodgson, Ofcom’s chairman since 2014, wrote to ministers in May to inform them that she would leave at the end of the year.

Election purdah rules meant the search for her successor couldn’t begin until after 8 June, but I understand that the newly renamed Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport won’t advertise for a new chair until sometime later this month.

No rush, chaps: there’s only the implementation of BT’s Openreach settlement, the recently acquired oversight of the BBC and the progress of 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of my employer, Sky, to consider (to name only three of Ofcom’s current priorities).

Layer on top of that the added complexity of securing a politically neutral candidate and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s timetable starts to look even more squeezed.

Read more: Official stats: The worst performing mobile, broadband and landline firms

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