Belfast Telegraph

RBS 'in clear' over small firm loans row

BY GRAEME EVANS

ULSTER Bank parent Royal Bank of Scotland has said a review by law firm Clifford Chance had found no evidence that it set out to defraud small business customers.

The independent report was commissioned following allegations by businessman Lawrence Tomlinson – entrepreneur in residence at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – that it pushed firms towards collapse in order to buy back their assets at rock-bottom prices.

On a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Tomlinson interviewed clients of Ulster Bank, who claimed they had been unfairly treated.

It total, Clifford Chance interviewed 138 small business customers, 45 employees and reviewed 130 files, comprising 400,000 pages and 1,200 documents.

Mr Tomlinson's report claimed that firms not necessarily in immediate financial distress were "engineered" into its Global Restructuring Group, sometimes through small technical breaches of loan terms.

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said the allegation that it set out to deliberately defraud business customers had a "profound effect" on the bank.

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