Headlines earlier this week accused the regulator of sitting on what was a highly damning report about the way the bank had treated thousands of small businesses, out of fear that it would be opening itself up to legal action from RBS.
In a statement released today, the FCA said that it always considered legal risks as a matter of course and the RBS case was no different. The question had been raised in board meetings and reflected in the board papers which is where the press papers had first picked up the story.
However, publication of the full skilled person’s report would have necessitated obtaining consent from all parties to whom the full text might relate. In other cases in the past, this had turned out to be a complex and lengthy process which had ended up in a much redacted version of the report since permission had not always been forthcoming.
The regulator also had concerns about the possible effect of publication on its ongoing focus. So it decided not to seek consent from the people identified in the report but opted instead to publish an extended summary of the report.
In doing so, it says, it attempted to provide as much information as possible to small businesses and the wider public about the report’s contents without breaching its obligation as a public authority to act fairly towards the potentially affected parties.
“We are firmly of the view that the approach we took was fair and balanced, a view we have had confirmed by external independent counsel.”
The FCA published the final summary at the end of November after coming under pressure from the influential Treasury Select Comittee.