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TSC chair Andrew Tyrie attacks RBS over ‘wilfully obtuse’ evidence

Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie has attacked RBS for giving “wilfully obtuse” evidence to the Treasury select committee earlier this year.

RBS’s Global Restructuring Group has been accused of putting viable businesses into default to boost profits.

In a TSC evidence session in June, RBS deputy group chief executive Chris Sullivan repeatedly said the description of GRG as a profit centre – a widely accepted accounting term which means part of a business that is accounted for on a standalone basis – was “totally inappropriate”. 

The description came from a report by former Bank of England deputy governor Sir Andrew Large into RBS’ small business lending. The report said as a profit centre, GRG could refer RBS clients to itself and move a business from turnaround to recovery and resolution without any checks or balances – potentially allowing for asset stripping without oversight.

Now, Sullivan has written to the committee saying GRG is  a profit centre and that in the June session he was actually taking issue with the way some have used the term to suggest GRG “had a profit motive with a prejudice against our customers”.

TSC chair Andrew Tyrie says: “RBS had not objected to the term ‘profit centre’ when given extensive opportunity to comment on drafts of Sir Andrew’s report last year. Yet it decided to contest the term in evidence to the committee, not only in a written statement in February, but also repeatedly in its public hearing in June.

“Following the committee’s decision to write to Sir Andrew Large for clarification, RBS has now offered the committee what it euphemistically describes as ‘additional comments’. In fact, they have done a belated U-turn. It’s not as if the facts have changed. So it now appears that RBS has been wilfully obtuse with the committee.

“If this is how RBS deals with a parliamentary committee, how much can customers and regulators rely on it to be straightforward with them?”

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