UK watchdog under fire for lack of penalties in RBS small-business scandal
14 Jun 2019

Senior politicians have lambasted Britain’s financial watchdog for failing to take action against RBS or its former executives for past mistreatment of small business customers.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it was sticking by its decision not to apply penalties for actions of RBS’s former turnaround unit, the Global Restructuring Group (GRG).

The mistreatment of businesses that were in financial distress and were moved into GRG is one of the biggest scandals RBS has faced in recent years.

Nicky Morgan, chair of parliament’s Treasury committee, said the FCA’s “long overdue” report would offer “no solace” to small business victims and called for the regulator’s powers to be beefed up.

Fellow lawmaker Kevin Hollinrake, who is co-chair of parliament’s all-party group for fair business banking, called the FCA’s report “another complete whitewash” and said it demonstrated the regulator was failing to perform its role.

The backlash is a further setback for FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey, who is tipped as the frontrunner to succeed Bank of England governor Mark Carney. He has faced recent criticism over the regulator’s handling of problems at investor Neil Woodford’s troubled fund and the collapse of London Capital & Finance.

Bailey is facing a showdown with Morgan’s Treasury committee on June 25.

“Our investigation has found that GRG clearly fell short of the high standards its clients expected, but it was largely unregulated and so our powers to take action in such circumstances, even where the mistreatment of customers has been identified and accepted, are very limited,” Bailey said in a statement on Thursday.

A previous FCA report had found that GRG was responsible for widespread mistreatment of business customers between 2008 and 2013 and blamed former bank bosses for pursuing profits at the expense of the health of some companies.

The SME Alliance campaign group, which represents small businesses, said it was “deeply disappointed” with the regulator’s decision.

By Iain Withers, Reuters, 13 June 2019

Read more at Reuters

Photo: Elliott Brown [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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