It is an ill wind indeed that blows nobody any good. If so, Britain is in the grip of a very cold gust this autumn. We have been closely following the excellent series by James Hurley in the London Times that has drip-fed details from the notorious Section 166 report into nefarious activities at RBS Global Restructuring Group, now known as NatWest Restructuring. However, today, The Z Review has for the first time seen detailed emails which back some of the most controversial findings in that S166 report. The emails we have seen corroborate this article by Hurley.
We should point out that we fully agree and understand that the provision of ‘free’ staff on secondment from services firms to all kinds of organisations is fairly widespread. One issue that services firms have, in recruiting large numbers of kids straight out of university or, increasingly, school, is that they can’t find arse from elbow. A secondment into a reputable firm can provide valuable training and industry credibility. However. Read on.
James Hurley has claimed that there were 14 cases found by the authors of S166 report, Promontory, in which there were ‘potential’ conflicts of interest between RBS and the service organisations providing staff. In fact he goes further, claiming that there were actual conflicts, not just potential ones, and evidence that some individuals were actively trying to nudge work in the direction of their own employers. We have now seen some of those emails. The information we have seen was not included in the FCA S166 report. Why? Because there was a conflict of interest between one of the companies authoring the report and the company involved in GRG mistreatment.
There are those who claim Promontory was too small and inexperienced to take on a job of this size. Perhaps. But from all accounts, they have done an incredible job, forensically uncovering some appalling abuses. That Promontory were quite a way down the FCA list, and have not (as far as we can tell) undertaken such a large investigation for the FCA before, it is quite surprising that there should be conflicts of interest this far from the epicentre of City of London cronyism. This is what happens when you have companies like RBS which are too big to fail. There are literally no service providers they have not used in the past, who might look to receive further work in future.
The emails we have seen involve a secondment into RBS’s now-notorious Bristol office of GRG, now known as NatWest Restructuring, yet carrying on with an apparently new culture even though most of the staff are still the same. RBS have a lot to learn about culture, and it is now too late for them to make inroads. The culture is so toxic that RBS have decided to bin the brand in England and Wales in favour of NatWest, which has not yet become quite so black. We are not long away now from a planned removal of RBS signs from their London offices, and the reinstatement of those lovely non-toxic NatWest flags being hoisted into position.
As is common in such cases, the emails show that the customer doing the complaining was rebuffed or ignored repeatedly. Eventually, the case was escalated by the customer to the CEOs of both RBS and the company doing the seconding which in this case was PwC. The emails have not yet been acted upon. Our evidence proves that both RBS and PwC must have been aware at the top of their organisations that this behaviour was going on, and needed investigation. What The Times shows us is that this knowledge was ignored and, even now, years later, RBS have said they are not prepared to comment on what their Senior Management Team or board new about dodgy goings-on at GRG. In fact, what the bosses knew is now the subject of yet another FCA investigation into RBS GRG. These activities continued to occur during the period when Promontory were researching their S166 report.
We will be bringing more news and analysis from the epicentre of English corruption at GRG Bristol. However we would like to point out that we know of similar activities undertaken by Ulster Bank in Ireland and in Scotland too. The ongoing police investigations across the UK suggest that the culture of GRG was indeed fundamentally corrupt, and we hope that the police can tread where the FCA feared to look, as in the case of HBOS Reading which correctly led to criminal prosecutions and prison sentences for the worst offenders.