RBS Staffing Shows Controversial Turnaround Unit Was ‘Merely’ Rebranded

LONDON—Nearly all the senior employees in Royal Bank of Scotland’s business turnaround division also worked for its predecessor, which is alleged to have pushed firms into bankruptcy, British lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Figures released by RBS showed that the unit, whose predecessor is at the centre of a political storm over its treatment of troubled businesses, had merely been rebranded, Treasury Select Committee Chair Nicky Morgan said.

RBS disclosed that 30 of its 32 senior restructuring managers (94 percent) worked at both the new division and the since-closed Global Restructuring Group (GRG), which handled some 12,000 small business customers between 2007 and 2012.

Some of its customers alleged GRG pushed them into bankruptcy in order to pick up their assets on the cheap.

This allegation was not upheld in a report into the scandal commissioned by the Financial Conduct Authority, but it did outline failings and examples of bad behaviour by GRG staff.

Chief Executive Ross McEwan had told the committee on Jan. 30 that the culture of RBS restructuring today is fundamentally different, and that only two senior managers had previously worked in the former unit.

In evidence attached to the committee’s statement on Tuesday, RBS said McEwan had been referring to the “most senior” management grade.

“The discovery that almost all the senior management in the new unit previously worked at GRG raises concerns that there has merely been a rebranding exercise,” Morgan said.

The bank also disclosed that 136 of 182 (75 percent) of existing RBS restructuring staff of all grades worked in GRG.

RBS has accepted some wrongdoing and set aside £400 million ($558 million) to compensate firms and try and draw a line under the saga which has weighed on its efforts to rebuild its image in the decade since the financial crisis.

An RBS spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the bank had made significant changes in line with recommendations from the report and was now focused on rebuilding trust with customers.

“The culture, structure and way RBS operates today have all changed fundamentally … and we have made significant changes to deal with the issues of the past, including how we treat customers in financial distress,” she said.

Lawmakers also said on Tuesday that the bank had disclosed that it had paid out £1 million in direct loss claims under the redress scheme, and expects to pay out a total of less than £5 million in such claims.

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