Police in Scotland are looking into allegations a controversial division of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), set up to restore struggling companies to health, broke the law in its dealings with them.
More than 90% of the firms put into RBS’ Global Restructuring Group (GRG), established after the financial crisis, are understood to have suffered “inappropriate action” against them by the bank, according to a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) report leaked in August.
Police Scotland says it is a scoping exercise that has been under way for several months, rather than an investigation, but they are assessing the allegations for criminality.
In a statement, the force said: “Police Scotland can confirm that they have received reports regarding The Royal Bank of Scotland and that enquiries are ongoing to assess if there is any criminality present in the allegations made within these reports.”
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The bank said: “RBS has recently become aware that Police Scotland are reviewing an individual complaint made against RBS. RBS is not privy to any details but will cooperate with any request for information made by Police Scotland or the Crown Office.”
RBS admitted last year that it “could have done better” for the 12,000 small business customers served by the now-defunct unit, but denies allegations that it tried to profit from their difficulties.
Among the things it got wrong were transparency on fees and apparent conflicts of interest.
Many of GRG’s top managers have left and it has been folded into other parts of the bank and last year, the bank put aside almost £400m to compensate some of those small businesses.
Bill Esterson MP, Labour’s shadow business and international trade minister, said: “It is crucial that the truth is discovered as part of a full and transparent process and that trust between businesses and some of the banks is restored.
“Financial institutions have a duty to help smaller businesses succeed, not push them to the brink to boost internal profits,” he added.