POLITICS

RBS Report Author Lawrence Tomlinson Warns About Lack Of Change In Banking Sector

28/01/2014 15:33 GMT | Updated 28/01/2014 15:59 GMT
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A pedestrian passes a sign outside the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) in London, U.K., on Wednesday, July 18, 2012. The U.K. financial regulator said it's investigating seven lenders over attempts to manipulate interbank offered rates as lawmakers criticized it for not opening the probe earlier. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Big banks are still just as dominant as they were before the recession, with no one yet jailed or held responsible for the string of banking scandals that have emerged, government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson has warned.

The serial entrepreneur, who wrote a report for the government warning that state-owned banks RBS and Lloyds were "killing off" small businesses with "unscrupulous" business practices, told HuffPostUK that the banking sector still remained an "oligopoly".

"If you look at what banks we had then and you look at it now, we're in exactly the same place. The reality is that if you want to bank as a small business, it's going to be with RBS or Lloyds, but the market share is generally static.”

He warned that the change among the big banks from the 2008 era of being "too big to fail, too big to regulate and too big to look after their customers" was so small that there was little to stop another crash in 5 years time.

"What's going to stop 2018 being another 2008? Once RBS and Lloyds are back in the private sector, the only bet anyone has got is a one way bet as if all the bets go wrong, we'll be here to bail them out."

"When was a last time a British banker went to jail? Where is the personal liability? Who has lost their pension?

"The public see all this noise about criminal activity and fraud. They don't see anything changing and, personally, I don't see a lot of change."

The multimillionaire entrepreneur, whose interests range from Ginetta race cars to care homes, poured scorn on new banking reforms that are intended to clean up the sector by setting up a "ring-fence" between banks' investment and retail arms.

lawrence tomlinson

Tomlinson, chairman of the LNT Group that owns Ginetta sports cars, poses to mark sponsoring the Celebrity Allstar Football Team

"We've already had a ring fence, we already had an electrified ring fence, and now we're having an electrified ring fence with landmines? Great!"

Tomlinson spoke to HuffPostUK before he is set to be appear before the Treasury Select Committee to be grilled about his report, which accused RBS of operating like a "hit squad" by withdrawing lines of credit from healthy firms and burdening them with huge fees so they could seize the businesses assets, normally property, at discount prices.

Reasons Why The Banks Aren't Yet In Order

The entrepreneur's allegations focus on the banks' "very concerning patterns of behaviour" with the use of business support programmes, like RBS' Global Restructuring Group (GRG) divison, which are meant to help firms struggling to pay off their loans.

The report, written by Tomlinson as the business department's "entrepreneur-in-residence", concluded: "Some of the banks, RBS and Lloyds in particular, are harming their customers through their decisions and causing their financial downfall".

The entrepreneur said he had been contacted by around 1,000 businesses who claimed they had been treated badly by the big banks.

Treasury select committee chairman Andrew Tyrie told HuffPostUK that it was "clear" that the state-backed bank's culture had been "inimicable to good quality servicing of SME lenders", admitting that "we cannot be confident" that such abusive practises will not happen again.

In response to Tomlinson's report, and a similar report by Sir Andrew Large, RBS chief executive Ross McEwan brought in the legal firm Clifford Chance to examine the allegations.

Sir Andrew, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, told the Treasury select committee that he thought Tomlinson's allegations were "plausible".

But he added: "Equally they [the allegations] are so strong and the behaviours are so extreme that one wants to feel they can't be true. That is why this forensic work is so important."

Tomlinson told HuffPostUK that for as long as GRG is "perceived as doing what it's doing", it will take RBS "longer than a generation" to win back the public's trust.

He added: "I haven't heard them say sorry yet...!"

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A spokesman for RBS said: "GRG successfully turns around most of the businesses it works with, but in all cases is working with customers at a time of significant stress in their lives.

"Not all businesses that encounter serious financial trouble can be saved."