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MPs say RBS boss 'withheld information' about alleged criminality

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The chief executive of RBS has been accused by MPs of withholding information about an investigation into criminal activity within the bank.Ross McEwan had told the Treasury Committee in January that there was not any criminality inside the bank.But in June, the Times reported that Police Scotland was investigating allegations about a former employee, which MPs then asked him to clarify.Mr McEwan said he had replied to the Committee's questions in "good faith".He had been giving evidence about the way the bank's Global Restructuring Group (GRG) had treated small business companies (SMEs).
The session related to a leaked regulatory report that found an "intentional, co-ordinated strategy" to put RBS's interests ahead of customers.
RBS escapes action over controversial GRG unit
'Secret' report into RBS published
He had been asked: "Do you think that there has been any criminal activity within the bank by your staffMr McEwan had replied: "Not that we have seen or had reported, and certainly none that the police or the Serious Fraud Office are looking at, to our knowledge."It was then reported in June that Police Scotland was investigating allegations that had been made in relation to a former employee of the restructuring division.Nicky Morgan, who chairs the committee, sought an explanation and after receiving a written explanation from Mr McEwan said he had "withheld information of relevance and interest".In his letter to Ms Morgan, Mr McEwan had said the allegations being investigated by Police Scotland did not relate to the period 2008 to 2013, which has been the subject of scrutiny by the Financial Conduct Authority.But Ms Morgan said: "When asked in January if he was aware of any criminal activity at GRG, Mr McEwan withheld information of relevance and interest to the Committee. "His letter to me implies that this was not inadvertent, but because he considered that the criminal allegations and police investigation in question were not related to the subject matter of the committee's session."'Good faith'"The committee is unconvinced by that explanation. It expects clarity and openness from witnesses, and Mr McEwan's evidence fell short of that standard," she said.Mr McEwan said he was "disappointed" by the committee's response to his explanation and that the allegations raised with the police related to a "unique case"."It is obviously of the utmost importance to me that the committee is confident that it can rely on the accuracy of my evidence. I replied to the committee's questions in good faith and clarified my position in writing," Mr McEwan said."In this particular case, the allegations that we referred to Police Scotland did not relate to any of the issues that the FCA has been considering as part of its four-year investigation into GRG's treatment of SME customers during the period 2008-13."I am confident that when the legal process has run its course, this will be seen to be a unique case. There continue to be clear constraints as to what can be disclosed as we would not want to prejudice an ongoing police investigation." Ms Morgan said: "The committee is concerned by the pattern of defensiveness, and a failure to acknowledge mistakes, demonstrated by RBS throughout its handling of the GRG affair. "Mr McEwan's letter to me is an example of this, and it casts doubt on his assurances that RBS's culture has changed fundamentally since he took up his position five years ago."
Nicky Morgan
Companies
Royal Bank of Scotland
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