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Tuesday 10 December 2019

City watchdog risking ‘reputational damage’ by delaying RBS report release

MPs were quizzing FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey as to why the document had not been published yet.

Open Forum 2015
Open Forum 2015

By Ravender Sembhy and Holly Williams, Press Association City Staff

The head of the Financial Conduct Authority has been warned he risks making a “mockery” of the City watchdog if it further delays publishing a report into RBS’s mistreatment of small businesses.

FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey was on Wednesday facing down MPs on the influential Treasury Select Committee, where the taxpayer-owned bank’s shortcomings were again under the spotlight.

Probed by Stewart Hosie of the Scottish National Party on why the FCA has delayed releasing the full report, the MP warned that the hold-up risks “reputational damage” to the watchdog.

Mr Hosie said it could make a “mockery” of the regulator, with copies already in circulation online and leaked to MPs and the media.

“Time is important here. If you don’t publish, others will,” he said.

Mr Bailey said publishing the report without the legal checks sets a worrying “precedent” and he urged MPs not to do so using their Parliamentary privilege.

It comes after Labour’s Clive Lewis revealed he has seen an unredacted copy of the report.

Nicky Morgan, who chairs the committee, said there was “not time now” for the FCA to complete lengthy legal checks before publishing, adding that she will submit a formal request to publish the full report after receiving a leaked version from Mr Lewis.

“There is an enormous desire for the report to be in the public domain.

“I am going to write to you with a clear request to publish,” she said.

The FCA is also conducting a further investigation into RBS, which has been dogged by allegations that its restructuring arm GRG intentionally pushed small businesses towards failure in the hope of picking up their assets on the cheap.

Mr Bailey said that the investigation is “well advanced” and “weeks” away from a conclusion.

He added: “We view the things that happened (at GRG) very seriously. I think it is very bad, very bad, shocking.”

On the impact on RBS business customers, Mr Bailey told MPs: “People have suffered through no fault of their own.

“It’s a terrible sadness and it should never have happened.”

He added: “You can’t have institutions that behave like this.”

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