Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Business View: No profit celebrations just yet for Ulster Bank

Margaret Canning
Margaret Canning

Ulster Bank could celebrate when its results marked the first quarterly profits since 2014 – a healthy all-island sum of £17m.

But there was no cause for celebration when Spotlight delved into the claims of disgruntled customers in property, who claim the bank's misconduct forced them out of business during the downturn.

Those interviewed, Michael Taggart and Brian Polly, were to suffer catastrophic losses as a result of the property crash – but both men claim the bank profited from their misfortune, and that they could have survived otherwise. Lawrence Tomlinson was interviewed, and continued to maintain that the bank's global restructuring group took value out of firms which could have recovered.

A report from Mr Tomlinson prompted RBS to commission an independent report from lawyers Clifford Chance into the claims that businesses suffered as a result of GRG's actions.

That report largely exonerated RBS – though the bank is still facing the attentions of watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority, which is also looking into the claims.

But Ian Gordon, head of banks research at specialist bank Investec, said it was not clear what liability might ultimately attach itself to RBS.

"It is the case that RBS continues to face a wide array of unresolved legacy conduct issues which, taken together, are likely to generate further potentially material costs over and above provisions already taken," he said.

Even though its results for January to April indicate it may have put losses in the past, whether or not the GRG accusations remain there is another matter.

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