In an exclusive interview with Channel 4, a former Relationship Manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland’s ‘business support’ unit Global Restructuring Group (GRG) has revealed how RBS deliberately destroyed perfectly viable businesses in an effort to save itself during the credit crisis. The whistle-blower shockingly revealed that GRG deliberately charged exorbitant fees to push businesses to the brink, intercepted payments and put the money into RBS’s own accounts. It is then alleged that the bank stripped firms of their assets and held them in West Register, another unit of RBS, which then sold them off for a profit.
Healthy Businesses Transferred to RBS’s BSU GRG & Charged Unreasonably High Fees
The former RBS insider explained that although the Business Support Unit GRG was set up to help nurse ailing businesses back to health, staff in GRG were encouraged to use “hostile” tactics which would help recover money the bank lost during the credit crisis.
Typically, once a business was sent to GRG, it lost contact with its local relationship manager and once in GRG, it was made to feel as though it was in financial distress.
“We would tell them we were nervous. We would put them on a watch list. From that point on we would start saying we wanted to sign new terms and agreements with you where we take X stakes in your company or we take larger fees from your company.”
The whistle-blower went on to say:
“We gave them choices and they chose one bad thing or the other bad thing.”
Collapse of Hotel Business: Charged “Unnecessary” Fees Totalling Half a Million over 2 years
The Channel 4 investigation also featured the disheartening story of Mr and Mrs Smith, once the proud owners of a successful hotel and events business in Suffolk.
In 2008, Mr and Mrs Smith, were transferred to RBS’s GRG and were told that they were “too highly geared” and had “too much lending”. Upon entry into GRG, they were charged monthly fees of between £15,000 – £25,000 which they maintain were not fully explained to them. The couple claim they were forced to pay over £510,000 over the next 2 years which “ruined” them and eventually pushed them into bankruptcy. Shockingly but now not surprisingly, one of their hotels ended up in West Register, another of RBS’s investment units.
The whistle-blower alleges that as RBS could not legally hold on to the assets, they sent them to West Register; in most cases getting assets into West Register was the deliberate intention and part of RBS’s strategy.
The Channel 4 documentary ends with Mr Smith concluding that he does not understand why GRG was labelled a “support unit” as he does not recall receiving any support from it all.
Financial Conduct Authority to Investigate Allegations Against RBS’s BSU GRG
As reported in November 2013, Dr Lawrence Tomlinson compiled a report using first hand experience from businesses ruined by RBS’s GRG; Sir Andrew Large’s independent report echoed similar findings and in January 2014, the Financial Conduct Authority announced there would be an investigation into how RBS treated SME’s in GRG.