Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Bank was 'not part' of RBS review

By David elliott

Ulster Bank has said its operations were not part of a controversial review carried out on its parent company RBS.

The Edinburgh-headquartered lender was accused by government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson in a report released yesterday of pushing viable small firms on its loan books into the hands of its turnaround division to turn a profit.

In response, RBS has hired law firm Clifford Chance to review the allegations while Ulster Bank said it is helping customers in difficulty.

"We are committed to working with customers who find themselves in difficulty and work with customers who engage with us to help them find a sustainable solution on a case-by-case basis," a spokesperson for Ulster Bank said.

"In the last four years we have helped a significant number of companies in financial difficulty and secured many local jobs."

However, former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has questioned whether Ulster Bank was acting in a similar manner to its parent and raised concerns it could continue.

"The danger is that the decision of the Chancellor to make RBS clear its bad loans by 2016 will lead to more opportunities to continue these practises," he said.

Mr Tomlinson, an entrepreneur in residence at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, was commissioned by the Government to review RBS and claimed in some cases viable loans were pushed into the Global Restructuring Group to generate fees and fuel the purchases of devalued assets for profit.

The division handles loans classed as being risky and is understood to have the power to scrap loan deals, impose inflated interest rates and charge hefty penalties.

If the companies collapsed, it's claimed RBS's property arm West Register was then able to buy the property assets.

The Northern Ireland arm of West Register reported assets of over £18m in 2012, according to latest accounts filed to Companies House.

West Register (Northern Ireland) Property Limited wrote down its property portfolio by £5m both in 2011 and again in 2012.

Belfast Telegraph