Yesterday I attended the SME Alliance event at the Conway Hall in London and joined a distinguished panel for a Q&A session. I am happy to concede that I was the least experienced member of the panel and very honoured to be sitting alongside George Kerevan-a former member of the House of Commons Treasury select committee, Anthony Stansfeld- Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner and Jonathan Ford the distinguished FT journalist. The session was chaired by Andy Verity of the BBC.
Understandably the very first question related to the FCA report into the notorious RBS Global Restructuring Group which destroyed over 90% of the businesses in its clutches whilst at the same time producing profits for RBS of over £1.2 billion. Also understandably I was the first panellist to be asked if I agreed with Andrew Bailey’s decision not to release the report because it was not in the public interest to do so.
My response was as follows:
We need to appreciate what constitutes- “not in the public interest”:
I have discussed with Lawrence Tomlinson, whose 2013 report pulled up short of accusing RBS of criminal behaviour but certainly highlighted systematic destruction of businesses, the potential impact upon RBS if it was forced to pay appropriate compensation to all those businesses which were destroyed.
We both agreed the bill to RBS would be in excess of £100 billion. Given that RBS is probably worth 1/4 of that, the bank could not possibly survive and the impact upon the UK economy, particularly given the uncertainty around Brexit, would be devastating. Therefore, in terms of the damage to the UK economy, publishing would not be in the public interest.
Secondly, in view of the fact RBS is 72% owned by the British taxpayer, the inevitable collapse of the bank would obviously not be in the interest of taxpayers.
Which leaves the third involved party- the victims.
The thousands of honest, hard-working men and women of Britain who have had their lives and their livelihoods destroyed by the actions of RBS bankers. Publication of the report would most certainly be in their interest.
So the decision for Andrew Bailey of the FCA is to decide between the interests of the UK economy, the interests of UK taxpayers or the interests of the victims.
As a victim of HBOS/ Lloyds criminality, I say emphatically- publish.