RBS: WHO TAKES THE BLAME?

Sir Fred Goodwin
The FSA had harboured worries about Fred the Shred’s internal dominance as far back as 2003.

It criticised the ABN Amro deal, his brainchild, as a “gamble” and dismissed the due diligence carried out as little more than “two lever arch folders and a CD”. Goodwin’s relationship with the FSA slumped to the extent that a “clear the air” meeting was arranged with the regulator’s supervision director in October 2004. Conditions appear to have worsened by 2006, however, when the then RBS chairman Sir George Mathewson added a clause to Goodwin’s formal performance objectives demanding he improve the bank’s relationship with the FSA.

Gordon Brown
Not so much the Iron Chancellor as the man who couldn’t say “no” to tax receipts created by the bubble. The report says a “sustained political emphasis on the need for the FSA to be ‘light touch’” and the need for Britain’s financial services to remain competitive globally helped create the climate for RBS’s growth. It also describes Brown’s desire to avoid “unnecessarily restrictive and intrusive regulation” and highlights the role of his adviser, Ed Balls.

Sir Tom McKillop
The FSA suggests the board of RBS, led by McKillop, “failed adequately to challenge RBS’s focus on increasing revenue, assets and earnings per share” when it should have paid attention to capital and liquidity levels. The report said the “key discussions” over the doomed acquisition of ABN Amro were held in board meetings and the chairman’s committee but the outcome of the decisions over ABN, it hardly needs to be said, were “dramatically negative”.

Johnny Cameron
He admitted the relatively smooth acquisition of NatWest had “lulled us into a sense of complacency” around further hostile takeovers, such as the deal for ABN Amro. Losses racked up by Cameron’s global banking and markets division eroded RBS’s capital base and undermined confidence. GBM is also criticised for the decision to “aggressively” expand structured credit and leveraged finance which “exacerbated” losses. Previously faced an FSA inquiry after which he agreed not to take on any full-time jobs in the City, although he did not admit any guilt.

Hector Sants
The FSA, led by Sants, heaps blame on itself for variously placing a low priority on liquidity supervision, failing to carry out detailed tests on the effect of the ABN Amro deal on RBS’ capital and liquidity levels, assuming that markets were “inherently stable” and succumbing to “political pressures” for light touch regulation.

Lord Turner, chairman of the regulator, also highlights “deficiencies” in the global system of financial regulation which increased the likelihood of a “systemic crisis”. The FSA has introduced widespread reforms, however, and Turner defends its controversial decision not to take enforcement action, saying mistakes in commercial judgement are not subject to sanctions and “not with the benefit of hindsight”.

Matthew Greenburgh
Goodwin’s favourite adviser, who retired from Bank of America Merrill Lynch last year, does not even merit a mention in the FSA report. Although he worked on a series of major deals in an often successful 28-year career in the City, he became known as one of the architects of RBS’ disastrous takeover of ABN Amro, alongside Fortis and Santander. He also worked on Lloyds’ takeover of HBOS in 2009, which increased its exposure to bad debt. After leaving BoA he said he would consider taking a PhD in English Literature.