Finally, after years of waiting, customers of Royal Bank of Scotland’s Global Restructuring Group (RBS GRG) have received an unexpurgated, as-nature-intended comprehensive edition of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) 350+ page “skilled persons’ Section 166 report” (S166) into shenanigans that, as has previously been revealed, ran huge numbers of small businesses into the ground.
Can we thank our mainstream media for this? Partly, as The Times and BBC have had the report for months and have printed highlights before. And last Sunday, The Daily Mail made further revelations. But none of them dared to leak the actual report. In the short time we’ve had to skim the report, we’re fairly sure that the most explosive revelations (such as the notorious Just Hit Budget email) have already been printed.
Can we thank the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, TSC? A bit, possibly. They have put the heat on RBS and the FCA, and last week managed to get RBS to agree to the report being published.
Can we thank the FCA? Not one bit. Their soon-to-be ex-leaders have fudged and caked at every opportunity. As one excuse for sitting on the report after another was proved to be bogus, they came up with ever more. After a cliff-hanger last week at the TSC revealed the FCA had never even asked RBS if they would ‘allow’ the report into the open, RBS stole the initiative by promising not to block such a move. Red faces at the FCA, and not for the first time.
Who have we to thank for this report? You won’t believe it. The only people on the whole of planet earth with the wherewithal and sheer gumption to publish the S166 report were the victims of GRG themselves. This is appalling and impressive in equal measure. These are not ‘failed’ business leaders at all. They are heroes of the British economy who, even under such extreme pressure, have managed to find creative solutions to legal blockades and threats of the most cynical kind.
The real story here is that the S166 does not name any names. One of the FCA’s excuses for not publishing is that they would have to contact all the people named in it. The only names that we can find in the near-400 pages are the very top senior executives, who are already widely known, Dr Tomlinson, who produced the precursor report which forced the FCA to commission this one in the first place, and Andrew Large, who was also very publicly involved in an earlier effort to uncover the truth. Truth that RBS, their whitewash cronies at Clifford Chance, and the FCA did not want us ever to see.
Not keen to name any names ourselves, we see that today’s Times has already named Mr Neil Mitchell, who has assembled a team to release this report, at great personal risk to himself, using his own resources. We have seen the rumour that there is a bottle of claret with his name on it in the House of Lords bar. It should be a case of claret.
Yes, the real surprise is that all the most significant revelations are already in the public domain. The real surprise is that what little of this emperor we have not seen is fully clothed. So what is it they really didn’t want us to know? What is this smokescreen really out to achieve? There must be some very dark corners in the bowels of Bishopsgate still waiting to be dredged, but our imagination is not fertile enough to come up with anything that could be worse than what we already know.
As Mr Mitchell has suggested, we need a proper criminal or public inquiry, done by prosecutors, with full access to all the information that Promontory, the authors of what is a highly professional and thorough report, with access to vast swathes of detailed information, could not access.