Eight years after the £45bn taxpayer bailout of Royal Bank of Scotland, prosecutors have concluded there is insufficient evidence of criminal behaviour to bring charges against the bank or any of its directors.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scotland’s prosecution service, said a team of specialist forensic accountants and banking experts had examined 160,000 documents before reaching its conclusion.
The Crown Office focused on the cash call to raise £12bn that RBS embarked on between April and June 2008, just before its taxpayer bailout in October that year.
The investigation was prompted by the December 2011 publication of the report by the then Financial Services Authority into the bank’s near collapse. The report found “multiple poor decisions” caused the crisis that led to the £45bn bailout.
The prosecutor said: “The failure of RBS is an issue of great public concern..... The Crown’s investigation focused on the rights issue of April – June 2008, and involved detailed consideration of whether there was any evidence of criminal conduct associated with the rights issue.
“If there were such evidence those responsible would face prosecution. If not, the public in Scotland could be reassured that the matter had been properly investigated.
“Following careful examination of all the evidence seen to date, Crown Counsel have decided that there is insufficient evidence in law of criminal conduct either in relation to RBS as an institution or any directors or other senior management involved in the rights issue.”
At the time of the rights issue – the cash call on investors in 2008 – the bank was run by Fred Goodwin, who was stripped in January 2012 of the knighthood he was awarded 10 years earlier. Goodwin had no right of appeal, and in accordance with custom was given no right to make representations to the forfeiture committee, a group of four permanent secretaries.
The Crown Office said its investigation had required co-operation from the Financial Conduct Authority - which replaced the FSA - the Prudential Regulation Authority, part of the Bank of England, as well as the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Reporting Council and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
“If any further evidence comes to light which is relevant to this enquiry it will be considered by the Crown and we reserve the right to make further enquiry, if considered appropriate,” the Crown Office said.
RBS has not yet reported an annual profit since its bailout and has amassed more than £50bn of losses in the eight years since taxpayers stepped in to stop its collapse. The government has also found it difficult to extricate itself from the bank, selling off a 5% stake in August for a £1bn loss. Taxpayers still own 73% – and the shares are trading at 213p – below the 330p at which George Osborne sold shares in the summer and below the 502p average paid for the stake.
RBS said: “We cooperated fully with this investigation and we note today’s decision.”
This article was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Thursday 12th May 2016 13.56 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010