Belfast Telegraph

Further delay to RBS legal action amid 'good' progress in settlement talks

Legal action by thousands of shareholders against Royal Bank of Scotland has been further delayed.

A judge at the High Court in London granted a third adjournment of the proceedings for settlement talks to continue.

Mr Justice Hildyard formally adjourned the trial until June 7 but said the court should "nevertheless reconvene tomorrow for a progress report".

The high-profile trial was due to start on Monday but has not got off the ground because of progress being made in on-going negotiations between the claimants and the bank.

The judge heard on Tuesday that the majority of claimants had indicated a willingness to settle.

The judge was told on Wednesday that progress towards a settlement of the action remained "good".

Jonathan Nash QC, for the claimants, updated the judge at the outset of Wednesday's brief hearing.

He said: "I am pleased to report that the progress towards a settlement remains good.

"We remain hopeful it will be possible to reach a final compromise of the claims made In these proceedings."

Counsel said: "With that in mind the parties are agreed and propose that the commencement of the trial of the action be adjourned until after the legal vacation to commence on June 7."

He added they would attend court on Thursday for a short hearing to update the judge "as to further progress".

The judge, granting the delay, said he understood "this is an exceptional case with exceptional logistical problems".

He said: "We must have certainty one way or the other.

"The court must know whether the matter is to proceed or not, and that must be made clear well before the beginning of term (legal term) so we can make any arrangements accordingly."

The legal action centres on a rights issue overseen by former boss Fred Goodwin in April 2008 when RBS asked existing shareholders to pump £12 billion into the bank after leading a consortium that spent £49 billion on Dutch lender ABN Amro.

Shareholders claimed they were left nursing hefty losses following the cash call after RBS shares plunged 90% and the Government was forced to step in with a £45.5 billion bailout when the deal turned toxic.

If the litigation does proceed, disgraced former chief executive Mr Goodwin, who was stripped of his knighthood following the bank's near collapse, and a raft of former executives are expected to be questioned as part of a £700 million lawsuit brought against the lender by 9,000 retail investors and 18 institutions in the RBS Shareholder Action Group.

The bank has previously settled compensation claims brought against it by other shareholder groups in connection with the 2008 rights issue.

But the lender, which is still 73% owned by the Government, stressed payments were made without any admission of liability.

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