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RBS: Stop the flogging

Robert Peston | 09:09 UK time, Friday, 3 April 2009

In some ways, Sir Philip Hampton's statement to Royal Bank of Scotland's shareholders later today will be a catalogue of what the bank did wrong.

Sir Philip HamptonHe will say that its takeover in 2007 of a large part of ABN Amro, the Dutch bank, can be seen as "the wrong price, the wrong way to pay, at the wrong time and the wrong deal".

He'll say he understands why the £17m pension pot awarded to the former chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, is an issue of "significant political and public concern".

Sir Philip will add that it would be wrong for this beleaguered bank to retain its corporate jet. And he'll say that if he were making the decision today, Royal Bank would not choose to sponsor Formula One.

It represents a pretty comprehensive dumping on the previous directors of Royal Bank.

But in an interview for the Today Programme with me this morning - Sir Philip's first broadcast interview since becoming chairman of RBS - Sir Philip asked for an end to what he called the public flogging of the bank.

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What he said was: "We've got 180,000 people and 40m customers around the world, and what we want to do is get back to serving them, and restoring the morale of our people. And the more we have the public flogging, the longer that is delayed".

In the interview, Sir Philip - who was appointed with the blessing of the Treasury - also threw a small grenade in the direction of Lord Myners, the City minister.

Lord Myners recently told MPs that he felt Sir Tom Mckillop, the former chairman of Royal Bank, had used an elaborate ruse to secure Sir Fred Goodwin's substantial pension.

However, Sir Philip told me he believed his predecessor's decision on Sir Fred's pension was "taken in good faith," and he didn't believe anyone had "behaved badly," even if it now looks extraordinary that Sir Fred was allowed to receive £700,000 a year as a pension with immediate effect.

There's other stuff of moment in Sir Philip's statement to Royal Bank's annual shareholder meeting.

He'll say, for example that Royal Bank of Scotland would have made an operating profit last year were it not for the colossal losses made by the parts of ABN that it acquired.

This is what he extrapolates from that: "I don't think there can be any doubt that the key decision that led RBS to its difficulties was the acquisition of ABN AMRO. This is the painful reality that we can now do nothing to change".

But the positive implication is that it shows the "enduring quality, strength and potential within the core businesses of RBS".


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Banks will be making huge profits on anything they are currently lending. The problem is the future. G20 showed a desire to regulate banks to such a degree that montrous profits will no longer be acceptable. The banks need to be valued as utilities so a long term investment in them seems unwise.
    RBS has been used by politicians to deflect public anger. It appears to have worked.
    Too many people appear to have lost the will to fight back against a government we have watched throw money around like it's not got to be paid back. I know action was necessary but a 2.5% reduction in VAT. More money for banks etc.
    They own Northern Rock. Give that institution £75b and let them leverage to lend £750b and we would be better off. Yes bother banks would go under but the people of Britain would be feeling safer.
    Too late me thinks.

  • Comment number 3.

    Fine work to try and draw a line under the past and start anew, but can it be taken seriously until there is a complete audit of the bank's books. How do we know what other nasties lurk in there, and would exposure of them fatally undermine the bank still further?
    Incidentally there are a few people out there linking the immediate rise in the stock markets to the G20 summit - but lots of people seem to be overlooking the fact that the real surge came from the decision to overturn the 'Mark to Market' rule in the US, which will immediately allow all of the banks to apply their own completely twisted logic to their assets and declare that they are in fact all fine after all. If that is the case, then I don't suppose they'd like to hand back all the money that they took from the taxpayers.
    Didn't think so!

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    ... It is simply not true that it was purely ABN AMRO acquisition that sank RBS. This sort of plainly and deliberately incorrect statements by Hampton confirm forcefully that we need more public flogging of these people to get them in proper shape. The annual return of RBS should now have a disclosure of the measure of flogging that its directors received in the year so that the public have confidence that they received enough...

  • Comment number 6.

    The 'public flogging' of RBS has been a bit much recently. Poor old Fred, hardly his fault that in negotiating his contract he rolled the dice and landed a six. Contrary to others I wouldn't agree that this is all his fault either. Surely too big to lay at one man/bank/governments door. We're all partly culpable, he's just at the top of the pyramid (ponzi reference intended).

    Perhaps guilty of naivety in thinking he'd get away scott free when the cards fell, though to be fair, many others have so why shouldn't he? He'll also have to live with a form of public shame in failing to return the money, his quiet resignation from B.P surely evidence of the same. He's become a political pawn recently, rather than the economic player that I'm sure he once was- and for that reason I feel sorry for him.

    Lord Myners is a politician so to be honest I treat his comments with a degree of cynicism, to be blunt, I don't trust him. Even a common sense approach indicates that Fred's pension was discussed...he waived a lump sum payment entitlement on termination- for what? His sizeable pension I'd assume. Politically that would give everyone the opportunity to claim he'd left quietly and on the face of it cheaply. The problem is that the deal came under more scrutiny and looking at the small print it soon became apparent that far from falling gracefully on his sword, Fred had again rolled the dice and landed a six.

    Myners is in a tricky position here, he either didn't know about the pension- indicating that he didn't think/look/ask about it, arguably negligent, or he did know about it and thought it was fine/didn't kick up a fuss.

    He maintains he didn't know but as noted above, that may not save his graces. To be honest, I don't think he's got the knack to roll a six yet.

    He should talk to Fred.

  • Comment number 7.

    Yeah, buying ABN AMRO was a massive, massive mistake. They were taking on people like this -

  • Comment number 8.

    For all this talk about 2500 more job losses at RBS, it would be interesting to find out the total number of jobs lost in Scotland?

  • Comment number 9.

    Tough bikkies Sir Philip. The chances of the public allowing you and your confreres to forget the infamy
    of Fred the Shred's pension are about equal to those of a snowflake's survival in hell. Long may the
    public chastisement of RBS continue. Lest we forget.

  • Comment number 10.

    I heard some of the interview. Maybe Sir Philip Hampton is more impressive away from the microphone, but my main impression was of massive complacency. This comes across in the comments you report where he says that decisions were taken in good faith.

    These people really don't get it, do they? RBS is insolvent. The only reason he, Fred Goodwin, and the other freeloaders are able to enjoy a very comfortable existence is that every single taxpayer in the land --- you, me, the shopworker on minimum wage --- is subsidizing them to the tune of about 500 pounds each. Is that fair?

  • Comment number 11.

    no 3 eddixon
    True. It's a huge boost for the banks. Wish I could say my house was still worth what I paid for it!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes perhaps the public flogging of RBS should stop, but only when it has demonstrated that it has taken the extraordinary steps needed to rescue some of the large pension package given to SFG. It is the perception of this that really upsets the public, when we are all suffering in different ways.

  • Comment number 13.

    9 possumpam
    Do you feel the same about HBOS, Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley, Lloyds, HSBC??
    Why blame just RBS? Maybe you should look into why this all happened rather than who the politicians say you should blame?
    The purchase of ABN was dreadful. The fact is they would have been in trouble anyway due to the sub-prime issue and the recession we are now in.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well I agree with no 1

    Robert can you update the place etc hot off the press ???????

  • Comment number 15.

    Sadly enough I do see Sir Philip Hampton's point on the 'public flogging' of RBS, but on the other hand what can he expect? It is a shame that things had to go this far before banks were reigned in! Unless the bank chooses to fully change it's culture over the long term future, instead of just apponiting a new head and expecting their problems to go away with old management, then they can expect the same contempt for the foreseeable future!

  • Comment number 16.

    Damn Damn Damn,
    yet again foiled in my attempt to be first to comment on a blog!!!
    re #1 forming a line for public flogging.
    Oh how i rue my words to Lloydstsb ( as they were then ) in December 2008 when after being lied to I lost 20,000 euros on bank transfer. During e-mail conversations for compensation for the loss, I did manage to get £260!!!! I requested that they did not take the Oik who lied to me out into the town square in the Isle Of Man and flog him. Oh how I wish I hadn't said that. still with my last few pounds in their account can still change my mind.

  • Comment number 17.

    "- also threw a small grenade in the direction of Lord Myners, the City minister."

    There's no such thing as a near miss in horseshoes and hand grenades !! If he's blown Lord Myners out of the water, we need to know the details !!

    "But the positive implication is that it shows the "enduring quality, strength and potential within the core businesses of RBS"."

    So why, oh, why didn't they stick to the core businesses instead of messing around with all those smoke and mirror products ?? Who decided to go down that route ?? From what little I can gather, the ABN AMRO acquisition did less damage than all that toxic stuff they played with !!

    Is all this yet another exercise in misdirection ??

  • Comment number 18.

    How lucky for the Nationwide that they were able to cherry pick the profitable assets from failing building societies whilst leaving the duff assets for the taxpayer.

    How lucky was Gordon Brown that on the day he needed good news, the Nationwide provided it.

    How long before it turns out that the Nationwide figures were wildly optimistic.

  • Comment number 19.

    Yet another example of a press release or public statement being accepted at face value by the credulous media! Has it occurred to nobody that it's strongly in Hampton's and the Treasury's interests to pin the majority of the blame for the catastrophe on a single business decision (i.e. the acquisition of ABN AMRO) that was taken "in good faith"?

    The truth is that the ABN deal was one of a series of massive, hubris-led miscalculations by many, many senior managers at RBS - directed and encouraged by the super-ego of Goodwin, it's true, but also condoned and aided by the actions/policies if the Blair/Brown government. HMG was comprehensively hoodwinked by Fred and other senior bankers into relaxing or overlooking capital adequacy rules, and into completely misunderstanding the risks to the entire banking system. In this context, those who were advising the treasury and the Bank of England on risk (chiefly the FSA but also, amusingly, the very banks themselves), bear a massive burden of blame.

    This statement from Hampton is about as reassuring as the platitudes from the G20 conference yesterday. Again, credulous journos believe that since the financial markets went up yesterday, the actions announced by G20 must be correct and helpful. The bitter truth is that they provide a short-term sticking-plaster to cover a gaping wound. Bank stocks went up because ultimately they will be able to make high-margin loans using the "free" money that their governments will provide. But the mid/long-term consequences are absolutely disastrous. You cannot just create wealth out of nowhere!!!!! If it were that easy, governments would have done it even in the boom times in order to get even richer! Paper money is merely a proxy for actual tangible wealth (in the form of labour, natural resources etc), and this whole massive market correction is mostly a reflection of the fact that "notional" wealth - stock market indices, money supply indicators etc - had artificially grown far beyond any underlying wealth measures (e.g. productivity increases, new natural resources...).

    I keep getting images of the temple of Ozymandias in my mind. Once some of the more exotic derivatives held by most of the banks in question start to become due, we'll see the REAL scope of the problem we're in. And it won't be pretty. And as someone else said above, allowing US banks to impose their own valuation methods to supersede mark-to-market will simply add further obfuscation until the real, hard monetary losses become payable.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thank you David Kilpatrick

    I watched the interview and got the same impression.

    He looks like an irritated headmaster who really dislikes kids.

    What's with the history lesson he was offering. The RBS are no longer some noble institution able to offer lofty advice to a grateful public.

    Everyone with a private pension will have seen the 'mangaged' chunk of their value plummet, largely due to the antics of these banks.

    A bit more humility and a lot less showboating would be appreciated.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mr Peston... can you please comment on the truth or other wise of a report in Time magazaine that the banks (in America atleast) are going to be allowed to forego 'mark to market' accounting on their assetts.

    Is this the tighter regulation we were promised only yesterday?

    Would such rule changes be a licence to lie and destroy any trust investors could have in the banks in the future?

  • Comment number 22.

    RP "He'll say, for example that Royal Bank of Scotland would have made an operating profit last year were it not for the colossal losses made by the parts of ABN that it acquired."


    They knew they were going to make these losses when they bought ABN, surely? Due Diligence would have been carried out, right?

    Who carried out the checks?

    RBS could sue them if they got it wrong?

    All this banking has been very slack.

    Someone needs flogging if only verbally.

  • Comment number 23.

    We are left with too few banks. Banks are too big. Now when banks fail, countries fail. Break them up and let us go back to little banks on high streets. Bring back mutual building societies that matched savers with borrowers.

  • Comment number 24.

    Oh Sir Philip!

    PLEASE - stop the moaning.

    Do what everyone else does to shake loose bad P.R. / the past and re-brand your organisation, or at least the retail part of it. You have a catalogue of potential brand names from your past takeovers and mergers.

    In view of the amount of Government money that's going into your organisation, perhaps I could suggest resurrecting the brand "Westminster Bank"? (It seems appropriate somehow).

  • Comment number 25.

    Oh.. and while your at it...

    What of the story in the FT that the banks (again in the USA atleast) are going to bid for each others toxic debt. An attempt to profit from their own mistakes at taxpayers expense. Could that happen here?

    PS: Why am being moderated as a 'new' member when I have posting here for over two and half years??!!

  • Comment number 26.

    My comment seems so much less sophisticated than others. I am an RBS shareholder. The Board act on my behalf and their actions have caused some employees of other companies to lose their jobs, possibly breaking contracts in the process. When I invest I understand that I might take the loss of all my investment. I do not expect the Board to cause such widespread business desctruction without taking the consequences, breaking their own contract or not. Sometimes holding to contracts become the unethical thing to do and in that circumstance, it is not the ethics that should change. If we work to the rules we run the risk of not thinking for ourselves.

  • Comment number 27.

    180,000 RBS employee's collect their salaries, bonuses and pensions from a company which is insolvant and in a true capitalist system would have failed...

    Meanwhile, across the rest of the economy, employees are being made redundant as the capitalist system forces insolvent companies to fail. They lose their income, their homes and their careers.

    So now, as a taxpayer, I pay for the bankers salaries, their bonuses, their pensions, the redundancy payments for the companies going into administration, the unempoyment benefits for those out of work and soon the pension costs for the pension funds which go under...

    Today, I am asked to stop the flogging, support this one particular failed company, allow it to regrow, pheonix like, at my expense?

    Maybe in the USSR this could be rationalised, but I think I'll continue the flogging and as the economy starts to revive after we have spent the next 40 years of growth on debt, I'll be voting for any party who will take down these nationalised banks, split them up into small enough to fail chunks, and spin them out.

    In the meantime, the RBS salary structures should be reset inline with civil servants, with the CEO getting the same salary as the PM and salaries cascading down from the ceiling.

  • Comment number 28.

    The RBS man is probably correct

    The decision to actually do these "silly" things was actually carried out by a few, and the many are suffering. At the moment, however, no one has actually "paid" for those decisions.

    The fact that Myners clings on to his job emphasises the weakness of Brown, and fails to put the matter to rest.

    Now RBS must become strong again to pay back all that "funny" money that Brown has printed

  • Comment number 29.

    Sir Phillip who? Never heard of him but did hear on the Today programme and my immediate reaction was that he is part of the dreaded City establishment and will make little or no difference.

    Personally I'd break up RBS and sell off NatWest. Then I'd turn RBS back into an essentially regional bank and concentrate on working with the Scottish Govt and Scottish industry to grow the Scottish economy adopting a more European social market model approach.

  • Comment number 30.

    Don't be so nasty to the Tarquins...they have mothers too...(off-shore for tax purposes).

  • Comment number 31.

    Decision of Sir Fred's pension taken in good faith. Yes that is because there is nothing unusual about these pay offs in their world of mutual remuneration deals including the obvious understanding about rewards for 'going quietly' when there is gigantic failure. It is appalling that a Labour Prime Ministermore than acquiesces in this world and it is no surprise Myners was supposedly not on the ball when the pension was discussed. Brown is made to look as the fat cats friend by even the Tories!

  • Comment number 32.

    All very well, but I would like to see an objective analysis of the fat profits the banks are already starting to make again.

    Ignore the write-offs and the stupid lending, they have probably trebled their margins on mortgage lending, corporate lending and fees in the past 6 months.

    you look a the spread between BBR and the customer's rates offered these days. Libor will be back to sensible levels very shortly and the old bonus culture will be back as soon as they dare.

    The commercial lending disaster that HBoS went into won't hit RBS as hard when these loans start to get re-negotiated or trip up during this year.

    Break up the banks now into small, less-dangerous units while we still have control. I bet you as soon as the RBS share price passes the mid 30p's, the Govt. will start to sell off their share.


  • Comment number 33.

    Ref No. 13

    Sorry, can't blame HBOS et al for Fred the Shred's infamous pension. That particular infamy was perpetrated by
    RBS and by no other organisation. You were probably trying to point out that the others in your little list were also guilty of taking part in the smash and grab activities that have brought our entire Banking Industry into disrepute. But in the matter of Fred the Shred's pension they are innocent.

    Incidentally, I take little notice of politicians, most of them are as self-serving as the Bankers. Suggest
    you do the same and form your judgement only on irrefutable facts.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    Oh come on, the bankers have got off lightly at the moment. They get redundancy (nice go away quietly packages).

    Joe ordinary gets treatment that isn't anywhere as good.

    For a group that have resulted in near financial collapse, and no with the politico's reaction of pumping tax money into the system to save it, its us and our kids who will have to pay up in the long term.

    I think the bankers, need to accept that they aren't the masters of the universe and their renumeration will have to reflect that in the future.

    As the Brazilian President said last night on newsnight, it is an amazing system where people could & can make a lot of money by passing paper from one person to another (whilst still making a loss at the end). All without producing anything of use to society.

  • Comment number 36.

    #21 & #25 Fingerbob 69

    Um, yup, seems like it. Sort of like the Gov over here switching to CPI instead of RPI when they realised the numbers would read better. In the same way, the banks have successfully argued that the main reason that everyone thinks that they are in trouble is because they all have to use the same accounting method of 'mark to market', ie base all their assets and loans on the real world price in the marketplace instead of the nice warm and cosy profits that the analysts predicted before the real world actually got involved.
    In other words, if we all just believe what the banks tell us and don't ask awkward questions, everything will be fine.
    And on your second point, the 'mark to market' rule is now going to be used to suck the taxpayer dry on the TARP program. If the government guarantees to buy troubled assets at the market price, the banks have realised that if they get together and collectively raise the price of said troubled assets by bidding a little higher for each other's assets, then the government will have to pay more.
    What's a little market manipulation amongst friends?

  • Comment number 37.

    Stop the public flogging?

    Does he not understand the magnitude of what has been done to us by the banks, his inparticular? If I had damaged the Establishment this much I'd be in jail for years!!! But no, they do it to themselves and after a couple of months expect to be let off! It's a disgrace!

    What is a man with precious little sense of perspective doing running a bank. Or has he just gone native?!?

  • Comment number 38.

    "Sir Philip told me he believed his predecessor's decision on Sir Fred's pension was "taken in good faith,"".

    I don't think any decisions about my pay or pension has ever been based on "faith", good or otherwise. At what pay threshold can I expect my remuneration package to be plucked out of thin air and offered with a nod and a wink?

  • Comment number 39.

    Good news at last.

    It seems that FG is to give some of the money back!

    You see Sir Phil, sometimes public flogging does result in a change of heart. Do you think he would be considering this move if we had all kept a respectful hush about it.

    Sir Fred, If you are reading this, please pass on the money to a charitable organisation. Ideally one which represents people who have been damaged most by the banks. SHELTER could do so much with a percentage of the money.

    Alternatively, you could set up as a ' secret millionaire' in any UK city to help those who really need a helping hand.

    A few days in the world of the unemployed would take the scales from your eyes and maybe you would then consider a using your skills to benefit the poor.

  • Comment number 40.

    RBS will be hoping that the change to the Mark-to-Market rules in the US yesterday can generate some confidence in its loan book.This (as spotted by Edixxon yesterday) is the real reason for the current recovery in the markets. But this is really all just more smoke and mirrors, just as the trillion deception (soon to be found-out) communique also was. This is more like the true situation regarding the Mark-to-Market vs Mark-to-Fantasy debate:

    "We have people who break every rule in the book and then they think that the answer to their problems is to break more rules. It's given us some real insight into the human nature and the pathology of the people who have created these problems for America."

  • Comment number 41.

    What Sir Phil fails to see and/or accept was that Fred the Shred also received 'big bonuses' because of the speculation within RBS which enhanced his 'take home pay' it won't wash that he did nothing wrong - he was in charge. Fred knew he was chancing his arm regarding his pension - take a look at his face on his exit.

    I'm not 'taking the bait' being offered here to forgive and forget there is a lot more we don't know about.

    As for the G20 this was just the 'ultimate jollies' and smiles to try and convince you and me everything's going to be alright. Don't like the taste of that either!

  • Comment number 42.

    I agree "stop the flogging of rbs" - if you leave the top of the cookie jar kids will take the cookies. The real culprit is Brown - he appointed those incompetents to the FSA and oversaw and praised (remember Goodwin was Knighted for services to banking presumably reommended by Brown). If anyone should be flogged it should be Brown (and Blair). Answer this BBC why do you let all these politicians off the hook in every interview? You often ask the right question but when they waffle and don't answer you give up - pathetic! It is time to go for them; make them answer the questions - it is time for bravery; the BBC cannot behave like bankers just protecting their interests - the BBC is funded by the taxpayer and should be fighting for the tax payer. DO NOT LET BROWN/DARLING and the other jokers leave the room until they have answered the question. Perhaps we should put them on oath?

  • Comment number 43.

    # 21 VERY important point. Soros was very critical about this too.

    Whenever readers try to follow a link and get "not found", look in the address bar: you will find a word interrupted by 5 control characters including "br/" in the middle. (the other two are located above the comma and dot on most keyboards, but they give the Beebs system a nervous breakdown if you try to print them.) Anyway, remove all 5 characters, press return, and you will find the page!

    The link for #21 is actually THIS ONE, CLICK HERE

  • Comment number 44.

    And Sir Phillip, additionallly ...

    As HMG has taken over the financial consequences and sequels to RBS's disastrous past, surely it's not too much for shareholders and taxpayers to expect you - allegedly a capable and competent man for the job - to manage the reputational consequences and sequels, is it?

    Actually, re-branding might help you to internally - i.e. for your staff and managers - 'draw a line' between the present realities and past cultures / custom and practice and therefore move the organisational culture forward. ("No, you can't do that - you're not in Sir Fred's old RBS now!")

    Whatever - just don't winge at the public about it. They have every right to regard RBS, or any other organisation, as they choose to.

    You can't 'make' them like you - you have to win their trust and regard.

  • Comment number 45.

    Only one way to stop the flogging: issue an alternative 'sentence' from RBS on Fred Goodwin (such as taking back the tax payers money) otherwise the bank will continue to pay the price for the theft of our money.

  • Comment number 46.

    Does this guy think he is being flogged? His generious sallary and pension have been preserved together with the majority of his staff. How many casualties of the fall out from banking greed and incopetence would wish to have been flogged so sweetly.

  • Comment number 47.

    Re #22 Toldyouitwould.

    When RBS bought ABN, the purchase consideration would, for accounting purposes, have been split into two chunks - one chunk would pay for the underlying value (i.e. book value) of the tangible assets of ABN AMRO, and the other - far greater - chunk would have paid for the difference between the book value and the total price actually paid, which would be accounted for as a goodwill payment. Under most accounting rules (including UK GAAP), you're allowed to amortise (= spread) this goodwill over a large number of years in the P&L if you want to, or you can choose to write it all off in fewer years or just a single year.

    What RBS has now done, therefore, is choose to abandon the amortisation of goodwill from the ABN acquisition, which would have led to ongoing yearly hits on the P&L. Instead, it's taken the whole hit in one chunk, since it figures that it's in enough trouble right now as it is, and therefore it might as well put all its losses into the pot right now.

    This issue of goodwill on acquisitions brings into focus one of the huge investment bank smoke-and-mirrors tricks when they advise companies on mergers & acquisitions. One of the main justifications for making an acquisition is if it will be "earnings enhancing" within a short period following the acquisition. What this means is that they calculate that earnings per share of the acquiring company will rise, as the extra costs of financing the acquisition (either through the issuance of new shares, or through interest payable on additional debt), will be outweighed by the extra profit due from the acquired businesses. However, this issue of earnings enhancement is massively manipulable by how you treat the amortisation of goodwill associated with the acquisition. Goodwill amortisation is usually left out of calculations regarding earnings enhancement altogether - implying that whatever you bought will always be worth at least what you paid for it. This creates another house of cards scenario, which collapses in a vicious circle as soon as underlying asset values start to fall.

    I suggest a change to global accounting rules, ensuring that goodwill from acquisitions gets much more scrutiny, and that, while amortisation of goodwill should still of course be allowed, the amortisation periods should be far shorter, and they should always be included in any calculations presented to shareholders and directors regarding the wisdom of making any particular acquisition. Not that this would probably have prevented the unseemly and irrational land-grab that took place between RBS and Barclays over ABN.... :-(

  • Comment number 48.

    Robert, the ghost of Banquo, as you mentioned the other day, is still staring with empty eyesockets at the scene of the crime!

    It is worse than annoying to have to listen to people like Sir Philip Hampton scolding us for wanting some justice. He may be able to point to the good bits of RBS, but brushing the spectacular failure of Sir Fred Goodwin under a carpet is a cheap trick.

    It's not altogether surprising. The tactic of the devil, as Banquo pointed out to Macbeth when the witches promised them the kingdom of Scotland, is similar:

    "And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
    The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
    Win us with honest trifles, to betray's
    In deepest consequence."

    We are only at Act 1, scene 1 of the new world order's trumpeted success of yesterday's G20. I won't be holding my breath to see the promised reforms making the slightest difference.

  • Comment number 49.

    He's been talking to his life coach again hasn't he?
    He needs to listen a wee bit more carefully before he considers going public again. Would be wise for him to get down to some real decisions too rather than moaning.

  • Comment number 50.

    "We've got 180,000 people and 40m customers around the world,..."

    I can only assume that if RBS still has 40m customers, these are people or businesses that are in no position to take their custom to an institution with a lesser tarnished name. Does Sir Philip truly think that the RBS name can ever be resurrected to become a trusted label?

  • Comment number 51.

    A quiet revolution.
    They would have made a profit without ABN AMRO?
    He seems to have forgotten the 200 billion of toxic assets now dumped on the taxpayer?
    But I fear that a damaging "quiet revolution" is going to hit him further.
    The reputation of UK and US banks has been greatly impaired.
    European, Middle Eastern and Asian investors may now be "wary" of Wall Street and the City of London.
    That may translate into a large slice of the worlds investment being handled by Frankfurt, Paris, Shanghai, Moscow and Rio.
    Probably an irreversible change, thanks to the "near corruption" and "third world" behaviour of the anglo-saxons in the last ten years.
    Will that bother the bankers, who've already got their millions stashed away?
    I doubt it.
    But it'll bother the rest of us.

  • Comment number 52.

    "He'll say he understands why the £17m pension pot awarded to the former chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, is an issue of "significant political and public concern"."

    "he didn't believe anyone had "behaved badly," even if it now looks extraordinary that Sir Fred was allowed to receive £700,000 a year as a pension with immediate effect."

    Not too sure I understand. If everyone has behaved well, what is the concern? And if he understands the concern, what has caused it?

    I'd keep up the flogging until something verging on common sense is actually spoken.

  • Comment number 53.

    It is somewhat churlish of Sir Phillip Hampton (or any other banking chairman) to expect that ordinary people from outside the banking sector should now stop publicaly flogging the senior bankers (particularly RBS) because they are still being handsomely rewarded for their failures.

    What he and other senior bankers still fail to understand is that even though these senior bankers are guilty of causing havoc in the financial markets and hardship for millions of people around the globe, they have not been made to suffer the same hardships. In fact as we keep on learning these these senior bankers are being rewarded handsomely for their misdemeanours. And that is especially galling for all those people, who through no fault of their own, now find themselves out of a job and are unable to properly fend for themselves and their families.

    The fact that in the eyes of the law these people are entitled to whatever remuneration package they negotiated regardless of the ammount of damage and public suffering they have caused only serves to increase public outrage. I always understood that the spirit of these bankers agreements was such that when the banks did well the senior bankers, quite rightly, were rewarded handsomely and when things went badly wrong they left with nothing, especially when they caused the downfall of the bank. At times like this and under these circumstances the words that Shakespeare wrote about the law can sometimes be an ass springs readily to mind.

    Of course Parlliament (not just the government) as well as all the regulatory and accounting bodies are not without blame.

  • Comment number 54.

    Anybody know how much of ABN Sir Fred "owned" at the time or shortly after the purchase?

  • Comment number 55.

    You spoke with RBS and Sir Philip gave you his surname?
    Did you not faint?

    We used to bank with Natwest for business and they were demonstrably hopeless. Continued mistakes at a junior level, clumsy implementation of indentity verifications, very poor customer management with account managers spread too thinly and with no power. nobody accepted responsibility or even gave surnames eventually.

    Is there anyone left in banking who isn't obsessed with marketing and market share, sports sponsorship and new adverts. Keep the same logo for 30 years so no need to sponsor sports events. Just deliver cracking service to your customers and they will come flocking back by word of mouth - recognise your weaknesses and deal with them! Banking should actually be fairly simple. Leave the big deals and complex derivatives to those who fully understand.QED.

  • Comment number 56.

    "I don't think there can be any doubt that the key decision that led RBS to its difficulties was the acquisition of ABN AMRO. This is the painful reality that we can now do nothing to change".

    Frankly this still misses a key point that the structure of a mainly cash deal was completely naive, many of us said this at the time.

    Let's hope the so called core business outweighs the incompetence there has been, somehow i'm not convinced yet

  • Comment number 57.

    Ref No 1.

    I've come round to the idea that flogging is too good for them

  • Comment number 58.

    Sir Philip is wrong, absolutely wrong to think that enough is enough and the flogging should stop.
    His predecessors got is massively wrong, walked away with diamond studded gold medal pensions and the taxpayer is underwriting toxic rubbish that has no value for which the banks are moaning the charge is too high even though thye can walk away and make no effort to basis change their thinking.
    It just shows how all the rhetoric by Brown and his spin doctors - do you remember he said that spin was finished on his patch! - has done nothing except stuff the taxpayer with garbage it will pay for many years to come until it is written down to zero.
    I'm surpirsed RBS hasn't already set up a vulture fund to put in a cheecky bid for the rubbish or will be prepared to fund someone who will.
    This government is a joke and its appointees are showing they are meer puppets of the ultimate puppet master.
    What they do not realise is that the public is ahead of the ganme now and views with ever greater contempt comments that show no remorse.
    Yes for sure business is business but love for banks will get worse because of such arrogance!
    The Prime Minister will also realise that for his handling of the creation of the mess we are in topped by his unceasing rhetoric, the voters will remove him and his over expensed party cohorts in the same dispassionate was as Sir Philip believes enough is enough.
    It doesn't work like that Sir Philip and you should know better!
    Its just a shame it can't appen sooner than May 2010.

  • Comment number 59.

    Comment 19, Mr Casalingua, has it right.

    There are huge efforts going on to write the history of this financial collapse in a way that will deny the culpability of many of those who claim now to be best placed to save us from it. Central to this fairy-story is a fudging of the distinction between the influencing of the consensus and the efficient exploitation of it.

    We are being asked to believe that today's movers and shakers are more than just efficient manipulators of the status quo, they are also the visionaries who will lead us to a more appropriate consensus for the future. And at the same time we have to believe that these visionaries had nothing to do with the creation of the consensus that has recently failed so spectacularly. Yet, with a few exceptions, today's movers and shakers, and yesterday's, are the same people.

    Maybe we would do well to recognise that an ability to run a system efficiently is not the same as an ability to decide the best system to be running? Could it also be that we should consider the heresy that high levels of ability at running a system are most unlikely to be vested in the same individuals as those with high levels of system design and selection.

    What such a person, for example, is Sir Philip Hampton? When he says later that RBS's takeover of ABN AMRO can be seen as "the wrong price, the wrong way to pay, at the wrong time and the wrong deal" will he also be able to say that anyone else qualified to be RBS chief executive, including himself, would have seen it this way at the time?

    Or is he just one of Keynes' "sound bankers", typified throughout the hierarchy, who "is not one who foresees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way with his fellows, so that no-one can really blame him."

  • Comment number 60.

    #39 anewworld

    Sir Shred is still chairman of the The Prince's Trust. However, this is a prestige position: a reward for his many "services" to society.

    I would still like to see prosecution, stripping of assets, followed by "hand's dirty" community service. The only "flogging" I would like to see is a firesale of the property of bankers made responsible for their negligent decisions.

    If we want a more risk-averse corporate culture, limited liability must be curtailed for directors of public companies.

  • Comment number 61.

    #42 - What Brown is up to at the moment is seeking a medal for closing the gate door after the horse has bolted, for basically saying we all need to pay for a new horse. He wants all of us to forget the fact that he was one of the people who left the gate door unbolted in the first place.

  • Comment number 62.

    #42. jdsholdencaulfield wrote:

    "the BBC is funded by the taxpayer and should be fighting for the tax payer."

    The BBC should not be "fighting" for anybody. The BBC should be reporting the news, as fully and as impartially as possible, and it generally does this admirably (notwithstanding the frequent accusations of bias when its reporting does not correspond to the political views of the accuser).

  • Comment number 63.

    These people are not there to do jobs "in good Faith" they are paid large wads for doing the job properly correctly and on mass Ie the board of directors et al are all responsible or should have resigned at the time of the purchase.

    they should all be going right now then with nothing. when my contract ends I get nothing at all for doing a good job. As they say bonuses go up and down (up but never down) it should have all been allowed to fold in a controlled many. As the french MP said you need sometimes to us the nuclear option but not tell them when though.

    We have HIPS for buying houses (???) what about spending billions on a buisness then ? where are the checks , perhaps they can tell use what they did and why it went wrong, so it can be "fixed" for the future.

    Reminds me of the British leyland days and the morris marina etc. now we have British Banking and RBS. (BTW I have many lumps of british iron from the 1950/60)

    This was inflected by RBS on the nation why should we have to pay.

    back to Glass/Steele and break the banks up so that they are a size that if if fails it does not matter , that what should have come out of the G20 then we would have the bank behaving sensibly therefore the system would be failsafe

    but then we might not have the growth GB/AD need to stay in power ???????

  • Comment number 64.

    RBS has got off easy. For example, nobody is talking about the £800M of bailout money that went straight into their 'underfunded' pension scheme. How does this 'stabilise the financial system' or allow additional lending? What it does is make sure that people who paid themselves far too much will also get huge pensions.

    The huge mistake is that RBS are treated as being a solvent company rather than an insolvent one so there is no real restructuring or opportunity for new competition and massive moral hazard.

  • Comment number 65.

    A flogging is too much towards the lenient. Considering the Halifax-BOS outrage and the contributions made by certain troughing senior bankers a deliciously poetic solution would be to re-introduce the Halifax Gibbet or Scottish Maiden otherwise known in a different place as Madame Guillotine.

  • Comment number 66.

    #47 Mr_Casalingua:

    Thank you very much indeed for taking so much trouble to explain the ABN/AMRO takeover.

    So to sum up, this was just a normal custom and practice type of takeover where all parties knew the risks?

    I am astonished at how nebulous these dealings are.

    Now that the wheels have come off everything
    the changes you suggested to global accounting rules should be implemented straight away.

    No doubt the FSA has got a crack team on this right now.

  • Comment number 67.


    Agree, but only after the politicians please !

  • Comment number 68.

    Its going to take more than a few fine words to apologize for what these people have done to us. Lets see some action first, meanwhile bankers as a breed can be classified as those unpleasant people whos greed has destroyed both our wealth and our economy and are directly responsible for the high taxes we will be paying for the rest of our lives and the cuts in services that will accompany them. Public flogging would not be enough, they have to repair the damage and ensure that it does not happen again.

  • Comment number 69.

    #36 eddixon ...Ah Ha! But it gets better than even your excellent explanation indicates. Because as a purchaser of these toxic debts under the TARP plan, 93% of any future loss is underwritten by the American taxpayer! If the banks collude just enough to raise the price of the assets just enough to cover that first potential 7% loss then no matter what the asset eventually produces, that banks will make the full 100% gain! You really couldn't make it up!

    #43 sahaclarkson ...I love it when a girl talks techno... will you marry me? :o)

  • Comment number 70.

    Only the RBS staff in the UK are concerned. Those outside of the UK have no affinity with RBS whatsoever. "Make it happen.." they certainly made something happen, but certainly not what was intended. ABN AMRO losses, someone please provide a breakdown, and in any event what happened to Due Diligence? Sheer arrogance by all concerned.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    #69 fingerbob69 :

    "sashaclarkson ...I love it when a girl talks techno... will you marry me? :o)"


    Take care, Sasha could be a man's name.

  • Comment number 73.

    (62) Whether the BBC do report "fully and impartially" is a separate debate, but surely it should include making these ministers answer the question put to them and the BBC should not let them off the hook then off to the bar for a few laughs together. These are serious times, this is not about Politics it is abut competence; you and I will not be able to get an audience with Brown but the BBC can and they should not waste the opportunity by not getting the truth - the truth is always impartial.

  • Comment number 74.

    Hmmmm... It's interesting that the day before the G20 bunfight the Nationwide said house prices had gone up but today the Halifax say they've gone down.

    I smell a rat.

    The Nationwide was Crash and Ally's building society of choice when it came to helping them play politics with the Dunfermline. Do you think the "prices are going up" story was the Nationwides little way of saying thankyou to the commissariat and boosting Crash's negotiating position prior to the G20 kickoff?

  • Comment number 75.

    I expect RBS have hired extra Admission Consultants (bouncers) for their shareholders meeting to conficate the ropes and horsewhips.

  • Comment number 76.

    It seems clear to me that it does not work having banks whose main responsibility is to their shareholders.
    The people of the UK have been shortchanged and abused by the banking system, in fact it would seem to me that the private banks see their customers as a resource to be milked.
    The best option that Brown could have taken was to let RBS go bust!!
    Then perhaps a bank owned by the country could have taken over the assets and this bank could concentrate on serving UJ businesses and the people of the UK and NOT themselves!

  • Comment number 77.

    The BBC must remember that it is now part of the problem, and the the ill-measured analysis (often presented as part of a news-item), given by Mr Peston and others, is contributing to the crisis. Indeed people now unemployed, or having a problem with their pensions might well ask in what measure the BBC and others have contributed to that.

    But to the point of Mr Peston's current article, my own observation as a customer of Nat west and an observer of it, nothing radical has happened so far. For example 6 months ago Nat West advertised itself via some very seedy and questionable bankers who we having a high time at everyone's expense , including its customers. The catch line being that 'the Nat West is another way'. i.e 'other banks might behave badly, but we don't'. I note that their current advert of being a bank that 'cares' for its struggling customers, tells one absolutely nothing.

    As a regular customer of my local branch I'll be looking for any change of attitude as indicated in the advert.

  • Comment number 78.

    74. At 1:44pm on 03 Apr 2009, Wee-Scamp wrote:
    Hmmmm... It's interesting that the day before the G20 bunfight the Nationwide said house prices had gone up but today the Halifax say they've gone down. I smell a rat.

    Yes, me too. And tractor production has hit record levels!

    There'll be a flurry of similar untruths over the next few days. And why not? We've swallowed so many lies over the last few years that the toads currently in power think we actually believe anything.

    The appalling fact is that we seem to.

  • Comment number 79.

    "In the meantime, the RBS salary structures should be reset inline with civil servants, with the CEO getting the same salary as the PM and salaries cascading down from the ceiling."

    The average Civil Servant probably earns more (and has a better pension/ benfits package) than the average RBS employee! It is only at the top end there may be a difference, although taking into account MPs expenses even this may not be true......

  • Comment number 80.

    #72 toldyouitwould... and I could 'bat for both sides'! ;o)

  • Comment number 81.

    # 64 tom_edinburgh

    "RBS has got off easy. For example, nobody is talking about the ?800M of bailout money that went straight into their 'underfunded' pension scheme."

    Is this legal?

  • Comment number 82.

    #62 RBS_temp the BBC independance is an other issue that Sir Bob might like to take up too. They take a load of money from tax payers

    The BBC used to be impartial, fair and balance 30+ years ago but since 1997 they have become polarised to the left.

    from my own personal experiance of other issues around children and fathers the BBC is very very biased against this issue. That is another story but a fact that can be added to the BBC impartiality debate.

    many would say they are part of the reason we are in this mess , as they have not really report what the reality of the last 13 years has been in the finacial sector. And IR35 is at the heart of that too, with some BBC directors and staff (forget the names) benifiting from personalised but contracts but actually avoided IR35 where as other did not ?

    Wonder if Sir Bob is IR35 proof ?

  • Comment number 83.

    Scoop! Of the $1.3tn G20 package announced yesterday at 15:30 a considerable sum has been invested in opthalmics.

    At 15:30 today there will be an announcement of the free issue of rose-coloured spactacles for every man, woman and child in the G20 nations!

    Trust us. The future is rosy.

  • Comment number 84.

    #82 IR35_SURVIVOR
    " ....The BBC used to be impartial, fair and balance 30+ years ago but since 1997 they have become polarised to the left. "


    Someone pointed out that most of the BBC vacancies were advertised in the Grauniad.

    There is only a small gap for any bias to take place. I know who I want to listen to when I am abroad.

  • Comment number 85.

    #69 43 sahaclarkson ...I love it when a girl talks techno... will you marry me? :o)

    Take care, Sasha could be a man's name.

    In this case, it IS a man's name :-) - like Solzhenitsyn actually. My mother was born in Kiev, and Sasha is the Russian diminuative of Alexander. Similarly, the Russian diminuative of Mikhail is Misha, etc.

    Sorry Bob, but I'm not interested in a civil partnership and I doubt you are either! ;-)

  • Comment number 86.

    Is it,not about time the moaning Minnies who post their purile nonsense and invective on this and other blogs got over themselves?

    Wise up. We are where we are.If you think a crime was committed by the previous RBS Directors report the matter to Lothian & Borders Police in Edinburgh not a BBC blog. Then move on.

    This vengeful lust does no-one any good.

    Damaging RBS may give you some short term relief but in long term we all need RBS to be successful again... paying taxes to the Treasury and dividends to its shareholders, that's all 60m of us.

    RBS will probably prove to be the best financial investment the UK has ever made!

  • Comment number 87.

    #74. Wee-Scamp wrote:

    "It's interesting that the day before the G20 bunfight the Nationwide said house prices had gone up but today the Halifax say they've gone down.

    I smell a rat."

    You're being ridiculous, seeing conspiracies where there are none.

    The Nationwide is an independent and very highly respected financial institution, and if they say that house prices rose slightly in January then it is because their own data indicates that it did. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, evidence only that a lot of contributors to this forum have completely lost the plot.

  • Comment number 88.

    #82. IR35_SURVIVOR wrote:

    "The BBC used to be impartial, fair and balance 30+ years ago but since 1997 they have become polarised to the left."

    Nonsense. The BBC has given Labour politicians as hard a time as anyone over the past ten years, and I doubt very much that the government considers the BBC to be on its side.

    When people complain about the BBC's so-called left-wing bias, what they generally mean is that the BBC is not as right-wing as they'd like it to be.

  • Comment number 89.

    To the moderators,

    It used to be possible to insert a proper html link into a post, via a bit of simple code. However, your new system seems to insert a carriage return into most of them, rendering them broken. Even if the link works in the preview, it is broken when the comment is published.

    Could you sort out this bug soon please? Oh, and also the pound sign bug too.

    Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter :-)

  • Comment number 90.

    I say Fred wotsit can keep his pension provided the entire amount is paid in RBS shares. Puts him in the same boat as everyone else then

  • Comment number 91.

    Hampton by name, Hampton by nature? I don't think he handled this at all well. It's all denial.

    Fred is damaged goods, Sir Tom is damaged goods (the "resignation" fronm the BP board looks like a ship deserting a sinking rat, and I reckon the McKillop 'affair' will take Sutherland down in the end as well). Sir Phil is bidding fair to be the next casualty.

  • Comment number 92.

    While most reasonable people would agree that the sort of pension awarded to Sir F G, even in good times, is excessive, it apppears to have been legally given.

    Therefore any successfull attempt to reduce it could set a precedent for any existing pension-holder, such that the pension managers, on advice from the former employer could meddle (reduce, cancel) that pension.

    This is a dangerous thing to ask, for if successfull , many, many other, much lower-paid pensioners could find themselves at risk with much flimsier reasons than could be atatched to sir FG.

  • Comment number 93.

    Having listened to Sir Philip Hampton, I believe that he will prove himself to be an appropriate and worthy successor to Fred the Shred. He shows all the characteristics of the true breed of which his predecessor was such an outstanding example. "On with the show".

  • Comment number 94.

    well sir philip i just heard 98% of shareholders voted against the rbs remuneration package.......however apparently the board doesnt have to take any notice of the vote......and you want us to stop flogging??

  • Comment number 95.

    and the bug that everytime i post!says ......

    Where's my comment?All new members are pre-moderated initially, which means that there will be a short delay between when you post your comment and when it appears while one of our moderators checks it.......

    it is untrue and annoying!

  • Comment number 96.

    The myriad of fund managers and investment 'analysts' wheeled into the Bloomberg TV studios over the last year and a half will be dancing in the streets if Mark to Market really has been done away with. It has been their preferred 'quick fix'option ever since the crisis started.

    I have posted before that financial regulators and governments will find some way of 'magicking away' the toxic assets so we can start from scratch again..I thought Central Banks would just buy them all and re-value them, but this way will have the same effect. The fourth and fifth-hand owners of these assets will pass them back to the third hand owners, who in turn wil pass them back to the second hand owners etc, etc. Once they are all back in the hands of the original owners, they will tell everyone that they are worth EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE INITIALLY VALUED AT and bingo! Banks have no more toxic assets and are free to resume previous lending policies.

    There is a great moment in Woody Allan's 'Annie Hall' where he gets Marshall McLuan to demolish a smartass English Professors critique of his work while standing in the queue for a film..Woody turns to the camera and says wistfully 'Boy if only real life was like this!' I think that is my exact same reaction to the accounting news from the US

  • Comment number 97.



  • Comment number 98.

    The banks, and RBS in particular, should continue to get a flogging until there is a practical recognition (sackings, policy changes, regulation, humility) that they have made very bad errors of judgment. I think Sir Fred Goodwin's defiance of pension self-flagellation is symptomatic of the cynical profiteering that banks have indulged in over the years and it's symptomatic of the reluctance in upper management of e.g. RBS to make sweeping changes.

    Have you ever taken out a savings account at a high interest rate only to have the interest rate magically decline over time? Even with this the kind of deception and theft the banks still managed to go off the rails, and that kind of incompetence really does deserves a flogging.

    Sir Philip Hampton doesn't seem to get the point. The public doesn't bear any grudge against the bank employees. The public are angry because of the seriously bad errors of judgment by people like Goodwin necessitating a bailout by the taxpayer and making huge losses for shareholders. You would think that senior managers would be ashamed, but there is still no real sign of an attitude change. The arrogant defiance continues.

  • Comment number 99.

    #85 sashaclarkson ...I believe there are several theories in physics, quantum and string to name but two, that would suggest that we are already married, we have children, we are of the same sex, we are dead, we are yet to be born and that the mere suggestion of our existence nullifies the possibility of it! Hence, I will smile tonight knowing that all was/is/will be possible and to rule out any outcome just shows ya forgot what 2+2 actually can be... if, all other things being constant and equal to, for example, the speed of light through a vacuum, anything... anywhere... at any time. It's basically down to the Universe being doughnut shaped while having a centre. The Universe has to have a centre (where else could the Big Bang of occured?). It's just now, cos physics has a hard time working otherwise, the centre is a whole(sic) where the centre used to be. Defining 'used to be' is what scientists have so far called the past, as in 13.5 billion years ago. Maybe it's just not happened yet. We are circumnavigating the doughnut to our birth which is, naturally our own doom. We are just not aware.

    Meanwhile, back in the 'real' world... the banks are going to be allowed to value their assets at what they think they where/are/will be worth. In other news, the banks will also get to buy other banks toxic assets while selling their own and so guarantee that each bank's loss is limited to a maximum of 7% of the asset's original stated value. WoW! That last sentence had such a sweet symmetry to it, that it bears repeating...

    Meanwhile, back in the 'real' world... the banks are going to be allowed to value their assets at what they think they where/are/will be worth. In other news, the banks will also get to buy other banks toxic assets while selling their own and so guarantee that each bank's loss is limited to a maximum of 7% of the asset's original stated value... At Taxpayers' Expense.

    You really... really, couldn't make it up.

  • Comment number 100.

    I simply do not believe that the decision on Fred Goodwin's pension was taken in good faith. He was "looked after" by the Directors. These people look after their own. Why was Goodwin not sacked for gross incompetence? His decisions had driven RBS to the brink of insolvency and it would have had to file for bankrupcy if the government had not interveved to save it.


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