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NOTORIOUS RBS/ULSTER BANK FINALLY CALLED OUT BY FCA

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Over the weekend most of the UK and Irish press reported on the recent summary report released by the Financial Conduct Authority, in reference to the notorious GRG unit, that was working within the Royal Bank of Scotland and in Ireland Ulster Bank.  The report was categorical in it’s findings most notable being that Royal Bank of Scotland’s management turned a blind eye to widespread failings in GRG, a department that was set up to help struggling small firms, as opposed to put them out of business.

The Mail on Sunday, which has seen an unpublished official report into the behavior of staff at the bank’s Global Restructuring Group, stated that 2009 to 2013, management pressured staff to squeeze companies in order to make more profit for the bank.  To someone who has no understanding of this behavior and this story, this is quite incredible by anyone’s standards.

At GDP Partnership, we found ourselves at the front line acting on behalf of many businesses and also individuals who found themselves being forced into this department within Ulster Bank.  At that time we listened intently to our customers who felt they were being unfairly treated by the bank, and post our review of the cases, found ourselves in front of GRG arguing the case for fairness and some form of commercial reality in terms of trying to get to a solution that worked for both the bank and the customer.  Although at that time we found the behavior at all meetings from GRG members of staff, very aggressive and often unreasonable, we were not aware that in fact the people we were sitting in front of, according to the FCA, had been instructed to not actually help their customers but in fact try and determine how they might make money out of them, and in doing so forcing them out of business. 

For a number of years our firm fought a good fight for many customers of Ulster Bank, which led us to getting in touch with Lawrence Tomlinson in 2013, the guy who lifted the bonnet on this behavior, and documented same through the Tomlinson report, which was delivered to the British government.

As we approach 2018, it’s somewhat of a relief that our own firm feel in a way vindicated with our approach, given the findings of the FCA’s report. We knew all along there was something not right about the behavior of the bank and certain members of staff in the Belfast and Dublin offices, but this doesn’t take away from the scandalous behavior of all of those involved.

We continue to be disappointed as of the time of writing the FCA have yet to release the full report, which in our view is only fair and proper and the least it could do, if the organization is to retain its credibility and impartiality.

However a question our firm would like to ask as of today would be; is there anyone going to be held accountable for this behavior?  Who were the people who masterminded GRG’s approach to their customers?  Are they still in banking today? 

The Royal Bank Of Scotland and Ulster Bank may have moved on over the last few years, with one of the actions they took to clean up their own balance sheet, being to sell off close to £20BN of NPL loans to private equity funds.  The outworking of this being, our own company now find ourselves working yet again at the coalface, trying to negotiate with these often similarly very aggressive funds with the irony being, we often find ourselves in front of many of the very same people who used to work in Ulster Banks GRG department.  Who would have thought this would be possible.

The findings in the FCA report are significant because they could be used by firms to take action against RBS/Ulster Bank or the individuals concerned. As previously stated, unfortunately for many of our customers at GDP, its simply too late, which is most unfortunate.

We feel the FCA now need to release the full report into RBS, get all of the information out there, as its only then, we can begin to draw a line under this very sorry saga.

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Conor DevineComment