RBS Bank has called the police to remove a group of pensioners giving away mince pies and mulled wine outside a Bristol branch. RBS, a bank with a rap sheet of offences as long as the River Avon, had the nerve to call in the police to disperse pensioners bearing social consciences and Christmas treats.
Those Threatening Grannies
(Grandparents for a Safe Earth at Barclay’s Bank earlier this year)
Yesterday morning, five pensioners from Grandparents for a Safe Earth gathered outside the RBS Branch on Baldwin Street in Bristol. Kate Cannell, 66, Barbra Day, 72, Ina Humphreys, 76, Phil Kingston, 77, and Fi Radford, 65, held hand stitched banners, and photographs of their grandchildren. They handed out free mince pies and mulled wine as they engaged passers by in conversation about climate change and the future of energy production.
Grandmother of four, Barbara Day, told the Bristol Post: “I want my grandchildren to inherit a world that has enough resources remaining for their well-being. I want a world that is free of pollution caused by the remorseless rush for expansion and profit of multi-national companies – the benefits of which are not passed on to those working people who ultimately created the wealth.”
However, RBS workers called the police on this most civil act of disobedience, claiming customers felt ‘threatened’. Police confirm they attended the scene at 1.25pm on 12th December, finding the pensioners “calm” and “not causing an obstruction”. No arrests were made and the group dispersed shortly thereafter, having run out of mince pies.
Utilities Constultant and member of Grandparents for a Safe Earth, Barry Cash says “Is it really right for a bank manager to call the police because a group of old codgers are handing out mince pies and mulled wine at Christmas? Surely, the real crime is cooking the planet not cooking mince pies.”
He has a point.
RBS has invested £40bn in just 6 months during 2012 bankrolling ‘environmentally and socially destructive’ projects for the oil, gas and coal industries. Of £67bn in power and energy loans last year, just £3bn went to the renewable energy sector. And when not investing in dirty and dangerous fuels, RBS has been busy rigging interest rates, bankrupting small business and busting trade sanctions with Iran. If the police need to be called on anyone, it’s RBS.
The RBS Rap Sheet
It is important to remember that RBS is still 81% owned by the taxpayer. On 7th October 2008, The Royal Bank of Scotland, the world’s largest bank (measured by assets), failed. The UK government made the choice to inject £45.5 billion of public money into the Bank to avoid total collapse.
The FSA report into the collapse blamed the bank’s failure on “underlying deficiencies in RBS management governance and culture which made it prone to make poor decisions”.
The RBS story has to be read to be believed. It is simply a litany of greed stimulated dodgy trades to maximise short term profits at the expense of law abiding bank employees, customers and the taxpayer.
In February of this year, RBS received a £390m fine from UK and US regulator for rigging the LIBOR rate (the rate of interest at which banks lend money to each other in London). The Financial Services Authority and US regulators found rigging of the rate was “widespread”, involved “a number of employees and occurred over a number of years”. The scheme was intended to make money by using interest rate swaps to bet on interest rates the traders had already rigged.
RBS has also been using Interest Rate Swaps to bankrupt small businesses, then buy their devalued assets and sell them on at a profit – in the Interest Rate Swaps scandal.
Small businesses were told they could only receive a loan from the Bank if they took out an Interest Rate Swap, which the Bank advised would act as a hedge, protecting the customer from future rises in interest rates. The Swaps were sold to the customers as a mandatory insurance policy, protecting customer and bank from future risk. In reality, as interest rates were being kept artificially low as a matter of UK economic and monetary policy (which the Banks were well aware of) the Swaps actually meant small business making vastly higher interest payments – more money for the Bank. Furthermore, the Banks registered small businesses with Swaps as higher risk customers, and charged them a higher rate of interest on the loan. Yet more money for the bank.
Finally, the bank seized the assets from businesses destroyed by Interest Rate Swaps, used subsidiary businesses to buy up the properties at knock down prices and sold them on at a profit. Property Developer Chris Kashourides told Channel 4 News that after his property was seized by RBS in 2010, another arm of the Bank called West Register bought the property at auction for £415,000. Just four months later, it sold the same property for £1m. Mr Kashourides was forced to sell 25 more of his properties in this way after RBS suddenly gave him just seven days to pay off his overdraft in 2010, or face seizure of assets.
In July this year, RBS was fined £5.6m for failing to report accurately (or at all) more than a third of its wholesale transactions. This means many of the financial transactions on assets such as shares, government bonds, and derivatives (like Interest Rate Swaps!) between RBS and other firms went unreported or misreported – making it impossible for the regulator to assess if these trades were lawful or not.
In November this year, the RBS pot of compensation for mis-selling Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) to customers reached £2.6bn. PPI was originally intended to provide loan repayment cover in the event that customers became sick or lost their job. However, bank employees were encouraged to sell PPI to customers who didn’t need it. In many cases customers did not know what they were buying, and in the worst, were signed up to the costly scheme without their knowledge.
Last week, the European authorities fined RBS £324m for rigging the LIBOR rates of Europe (Euribor) and Japan (Yen LIBOR).
Just this week, RBS received a $100m fine from US regulators for violating sanctions against Iran. RBS removed information from sanction-busting trades with Iran, in order to deliberately conceal what they knew to be criminal actions. Between 2005 and 2009, more than 3,500 of these illegal transactions were made, totalling more than £523m.
In none of these scenarios were the police called. The sanction busting, PPI mis-selling, small business bankrupting, LIBOR rigging, transaction hiding, corporate criminals at RBS Bank face no personal criminal censure for their crimes. In each case, the punishment is an easily repayable fine to the corporation, while the individuals retain their personal fortunes which are the proceeds of crime.
Perhaps if RBS had invested their profits back into the business, rather than bonus schemes for rogue traders, they would not now be facing a £1bn bill for an emergency upgrade to their IT systems, after multiple failures which have seen customers unable to transfer money online, use their debit cards or withdraw their own money from cash machines.
Cook the Books and the Planet, but Not Mince Pies
RBS has engaged persistently in criminal activity on an industrial scale over the better part of a decade. Even after the reckless short termism of its own employees and management brought the 300 year old institution to its knees, saved only by a costly taxpayer funded bailout, this behaviour continued unabated. It likely continues today.
No personal court cases, no convicted persons, no personal fines. Once again, the taxpayer owned institution is picking up the bill for the unethical and illegal behaviour of individuals inside the bank – while those acting unlawfully reap the profits.
And RBS is calling the cops to chase down any pensioner with a placard?
It seems we truly do live in a country where you can cook the books, and the planet, but not mince pies.
Don’t get angry, get involved!
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