Lawyers representing businesses suing Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have demanded that the BBC releases part of a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) report into the lender’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG), which was leaked to the broadcaster.
The so-called skilled person’s report was commissioned by the watchdog almost four years ago as part of its investigation into GRG’s activities but the regulator has refused to publish its findings.
Ali Akram, whose law firm LexLaw represents a number of businesses taking legal action against RBS over the behaviour of its scandal-hit GRG and West Register divisions, made a formal written request to the BBC on Friday for the documents. Akram said he would not rule out going to court if the corporation refused to release them.
The BBC reported last month that the leaked report showed only 10% of companies put into GRG ever returned to the main bank.
The 361-page document also revealed that 92% of “viable firms” that ended up in GRG were subject to “inappropriate actions”, which included interest charges being raised or unnecessary fees.
Akram told The Sunday Times: “We have asked the BBC to release the relevant pages of the skilled person’s report that concern RBS’s treatment of our clients. We expect that the BBC will be legally required to give us access to the pages that directly relate to our clients.”
He added: “We trust it will be unnecessary to seek a court or tribunal order because the BBC is a data controller, with a copy of the report, which contains information about our clients. No journalistic exemption can apply to the BBC releasing information that is personal to our clients.
“What the FCA report says about the wrongful treatment by RBS of its customers would be extremely helpful in litigation against the bank. It would assist all businesses that fell victim to the GRG ‘dash for cash’ process and deter bad banks from engaging in sharp practice.”
The BBC did not comment.
GRG, which operated from 2005 until 2013, stepped in when companies banking with RBS hit financial difficulties. GRG was called a turnaround specialist but is accused of sending companies to the wall so it could pick up their assets cheaply. RBS denies abuse of its customers and has set up a compensation scheme for companies that went through GRG. The former High Court judge overseeing the scheme has criticised its lack of progress.
Akram also accused the FCA of acting as a “trade union for bad banks”.
He said: “The regulator is protecting RBS, GRG and West Register even though its own skilled person’s report indicates they have harmed 92% of their own customers.”
The FCA said its inquiry into GRG remains “ongoing” but declined to comment further. It has launched an investigation into the leak.