The U.K.’s Financial Services Authority refused to release questions it asked former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Fred Goodwin, regarding the bank’s near collapse, saying it’s his own personal information and may deter others from cooperating.
The regulator declined a request made under the Freedom of Information Act by Bloomberg News for the questions posed during interviews for its report, released on Dec. 12 into the Edinburgh-based bank’s near failure. While tracts of interviews with Johnny Cameron, the bank’s former investment banking chief; Guy Whittaker, its finance director; and Jay Levine, the head of its U.S. securities unit were published, no testimony by Goodwin was included in the 452-page document.
“We are not able to disclose the questions that the FSA asked Mr. Goodwin relating to the report as this information constitutes his personal data,” the FSA said in an e-mail in response to the request. “This is primarily because the questions were drafted specifically to seek his personal views on the near-collapse of RBS.”
The FSA came under pressure from lawmakers to publish the investigation into RBS, which received a 45.5 billion-pound ($70.7 billion) government bailout, after the regulator cleared bank executives, including Goodwin, of wrongdoing. The report was altered when Goodwin’s legal advisers were allowed to see it, Bill Knight, a lawyer who conducted an independent review of the document, told a U.K. parliamentary committee in January. A section was removed that said Goodwin, who stepped down in 2008, “lacked the experience to run an international bank,” Knight said.
Releasing the questions it asked Goodwin may make other executives less likely to cooperate with the regulator, the FSA said. “There is now a public expectation” the FSA will investigate the failure of HBOS Plc, it said. Lloyds Banking Group Plc’s acquisition of HBOS, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender in 2008 left the combined company needing a taxpayer bailout of more than 20 billion pounds.
The request was considered by Brian Pomeroy, a board member of the FSA, the regulator said.
“I would have thought the questions were the FSA’s data,” said Gary Greenwood, a banking analyst at Shore Capital Group Ltd. in Liverpool, England. “This will be based on legal advice, I imagine.”
The FSA in April declined a request by Bloomberg News to supply the full interview with Goodwin, citing the Financial Services and Markets Act, which says it may not disclose someone’s confidential information without their consent, and their view that the interview included Goodwin’s personal data.
Goodwin expected his interview would remain confidential and “disclosure of any additional information may therefore lead to further publicity, and the possibility of causing ‘distress or damage’ (or, perhaps, further distress or damage) to Mr. Goodwin,” the FSA said in April.
Takeovers should be more closely regulated, according to the FSA’s study, which detailed how RBS’s purchase of Dutch bank ABN Amro Holding NV in 2007 brought the lender to the brink of collapse. After the acquisition, RBS reported a 24.1 billion-pound loss for 2008, the largest in U.K. corporate history.