LONDON, June 5 (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland is refusing to raise its offer to shareholders still suing the bank over its 2008 share sale, sources with knowledge of the matter said, leaving the claimants in a race to raise 3 million pounds ($3.9 million) to proceed with the case.
Chief Executive Ross McEwan told shareholders they face a take-it-or-leave it offer to settle out of court before the claimants must inform a judge on Wednesday if they plan to pursue the case, the sources said.
RBS has offered around 900 million pounds in settlements so far to avoid a costly and potentially embarrassing lawsuit alleging it misled investors before its near collapse in 2008.
On Wednesday, McEwan will find out whether that strategy has been successful or the trial he sought to avoid will proceed.
RBS and lawyers representing the claimants declined to comment.
The several thousand claimants still holding out for a trial are all that remain of the more than 27,000 investors at the outset of the action, which threatened to be one of the costliest in British legal history.
The holdouts need around 7 million pounds to fund their claim, of which they have raised 4 million, sources said.
Judge Robert Hildyard two weeks ago adjourned court proceedings for the third time to June 7 in the case that turns on whether RBS and its former bosses misled shareholders about the state of its finances when it launched the rights issue.
The difference between what many of the shareholders will accept and what the bank is offering is as little as 20 million pounds, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
But McEwan has told the claimants he is not putting any more money on the table, one of them said.
RBS’s thinking is that it has to protect the interests of current shareholders in the bank by not paying out too much in settlements.
A deal had been expected. Jonathan Nash, a lawyer for the claimant group, told London’s High Court on Tuesday the majority of shareholders were willing to accept RBS’s offer and there was a “good prospect” of a final settlement by Wednesday morning.
The bank was bailed out to the tune of around 45.8 billion pounds just months after its cash call. Shareholders, including thousands of current and former RBS employees, lost around 80 percent of their investments.
RBS, which remains more than 70 percent state-owned, denies any wrongdoing and has said its former bosses did not act illegally.
$1 = 0.7742 pounds Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Lawrence White; Editing by Mark Potter