Lawyers acting for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) wrote a letter to an ex-employee asking him to destroy sensitive documents in his possession.
The former employee Victor Hong said that destroying the documents, which related to the long-running RBS rights issue litigation, may put him at risk of prosecution by the US government.
In a letter seen by news agency Reuters, the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), which was acting for RBS, asked Hong to “permanently destroy any confidential materials in his possession” that he had obtained via litigation disclosures or during his employment with the bank.
HSF’s letter was sent after evidence pertaining to the RBS rights litigation was uploaded to the website Scribed.
A spokesperson for RBS said: “Confidential copies of documents disclosed by RBS ahead of the rights issue litigation were published on the internet. This is absolutely prohibited by UK civil procedure rules and the bank took the necessary and appropriate action to have the documents removed from the public domain and destroyed, in line with normal practice.”
Hong’s lawyer, Richard Corenthal of Meyer Suozzi English & Klein, said destroying the documents could violate US law and breach the terms of the bank’s recent $4.9bn (£3.62bn) settlement with the US government over its packaging and sale of mortgage-backed securities.
Corenthal said: “The letter was apparently written by RBS’ UK lawyers in disregard of legal requirements under federal law and governmental subpoenas.”
An RBS spokesperson said: “RBS has not at any point sought to prevent the disclosure of evidence to the relevant authorities in relation to other investigations, nor does it believe that the letter in any way infringes on the terms of its deferred prosecution agreements or constitutes mistreatment of a witness.”