RBS keeps quiet on small firms until watchdog probe is finished

Tim Wallace
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RBS is not planning any further action on its treatment of small businesses in the hope that Clifford Chance’s report clearing the bank of wrongdoing will satisfy its critics, City A.M. understands.

City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is conducting its own investigation, and RBS is not expected to make any announcements until that report is published – probably in the third quarter of the year.

The FCA’s probe is broader than Clifford Chance’s, looking at distressed businesses more broadly. It will also look at RBS’ treatment of customers more broadly, rather than focussing on claims of fraud.

The bank commissioned Clifford Chance to investigate claims by Lawrence Tomlinson, the Department of Business’ (BIS) entrepreneur in residence, that RBS was forcing small businesses to the wall in order to seize their assets. The law firm found no evidence of fraud in its study, published last week.

RBS’ chief Ross McEwan has hit out at Tomlinson’s report for damaging the bank’s reputation. But it is not expected to take any action against Tomlinson or BIS.

The bank has announced it will cut some of the fees charged to small firms which do get into financial difficulty. RBS declined to comment.