February 7, 2018 / 3:39 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 3-UK lawmakers order watchdog to publish RBS report by Feb 16

* Lawmaker says unreasonable to delay report further

* FCA says must give those named in report right of reply

* Small business federation says firms await redress (Recasts with deadline for publishing report)

By Huw Jones

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Lawmakers have ordered Britain’s financial markets regulator to publish by Feb. 16 its full report into how Royal Bank of Scotland allegedly mistreated small businesses.

Failing that, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should send the final, unredacted report on the bank’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG) unit to parliament’s Treasury Select Committee by the same date, committee chair Nicky Morgan said.

State-controlled RBS’s GRG unit is alleged to have pushed struggling firms into bankruptcy in order to be able to pick up their assets on the cheap.

“The deadline may appear short. But the committee considers it unreasonable that, four years since the review was commissioned, and 18 months since the FCA received the final report, such slow progress has been made towards meeting this objective,” Morgan said.

“A version of the report is in the hands of third parties, it has been selectively reported by the media,” she said, adding that the FCA had “lost control over the timing or content of further public disclosures” of the report.

The watchdog had no immediate comment.

RBS Chief Executive Ross McEwan had previously said the “vast majority” of firms it dealt with were turned around, though he accepted last week this was not the case.

The Treasury Select Committee’s use of its powers to compel the watchdog to publish the report followed the appearance of FCA Chief Executive Andrew Bailey before the committee on Wednesday.

The clash with lawmakers shines a potentially uncomfortable spotlight on Bailey, who is seen as a leading candidate to replace Mark Carney as the Bank of England governor in 2019.

Bailey had told the committee that the regulator would publish the report once its enforcement investigation into RBS had been completed, and those named in the report had had the opportunity to respond to any criticisms.

The investigation element was largely complete. “I would like to think we are talking weeks,” Bailey said.

A summary of the report has already been published.

Bailey said there was requirement for the watchdog to give all those identified in the report a right of reply. “That is the bind we are in,” he said.

Parliament must either change this requirement or risk setting a precedent by publishing the report straight away, he added.

Britain’s Federation of Small Businesses said “victims have waited months” for the report to be published, with hundreds of former small business owners still yet to receive redress from RBS.

RBS denied on Tuesday a British lawmaker’s allegation that its executives misled the Treasury Select Committee over the extent to which the bank mistreated small businesses during and after the financial crisis.

The bank has set aside 400 million pounds ($555 million) to cover claims relating to its restructuring unit, which handled more than 12,000 troubled businesses between 2007 and 2012. (Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter and Edmund Blair)

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