RBS report urges tougher rules on bank M&A, executives

Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:31pm EST
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By Steve Slater and Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON (Reuters) - Bank takeovers should face deeper scrutiny and directors be more accountable for their actions, Britain's finance watchdog said in a long-awaited report into Royal Bank of Scotland's RBS.L near collapse.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said in a 452 page report Monday that RBS managers, like former chief executive Fred Goodwin, were most at fault in the bank's brush with bankruptcy, which was only averted by a 45 billion pound ($70 billion) government bailout in 2008.

The regulator, due to be broken up next year with much of its remit returning to the Bank of England, was also critical of its own actions and of former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for encouraging a "light touch" regulatory regime.

The report, like earlier investigations, said there was no prospect of successful legal action against former RBS executives as there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, although they had made a series of bad decisions.

But it said they could still be disqualified from being directors in future, pending a decision by the government, and suggested the law could be changed.

FSA Chairman Adair Turner said bank directors could be banned or have pay clawed back if their company failed, as banks were different from other firms and need to pay more attention to risk than profits.

"In the years before the crisis we allowed the development of a financial system which was taking too many risks, in some cases doing activities that were socially useless, which had a set of remuneration structures that allowed people to make very large amounts of money," Turner said.

Regulators were trying to unravel that, but did not want to go so far that no-one would want to be a bank director, he said.   Continued...