Royal Bank of Scotland – Investigation (2) (R013085)
Thank you for your e-mail of 13 May 2016 in which you requested the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA):
“I would like to submit a Freedom of Information request in the following areas into the Crown Office's investigation into Royal Bank of Scotland's rights issue of 2008.
1. How many members of staff from the Crown Office were involved in the investigation?
2. Approximately how many hours were devoted to the investigation?
3. What is the likely cost of the investigation?
4. A team of specialist forensic accountants and banking experts were assembled. How many accountants were there and how many banking experts?
5. How many hours did the forensic accountants work for?
6. What is the cost of the services of the forensic accountants?
7. How many hours did the banking experts work for?
8. What is the cost of the services provided by the banking experts?
9. How many members of the Crown's Serious and Organised Crime Division were involved in the investigation?
10. Did investigators formally interview Fred Goodwin as part of the enquiry? If they did, on how many occasions was he spoken to?
11. Did investigators formally interview Sir Tom McKillop as part of the enquiry? If they did, on how many occasions was he spoken to?
12. Did investigators formally interview Johnny Cameron as part of the enquiry? If they did, on how many occasions was he spoken to?
13. Did investigators formally interview Guy Whittaker as part of the enquiry? If they did, on how many occasions was he spoken to?
14. How many current and former RBS employees did the enquiry speak to?”
The failure of RBS is an issue of great public concern. The Crown undertook a thorough, independent investigation following publication of the FSA (now FCA) report in December 2011.
The Crown's investigation focussed on the rights issue of April – June 2008, and involved detailed consideration of whether there was any evidence of criminal conduct associated with the rights issue. If there were such evidence those responsible would face prosecution. If not, the public in Scotland could be reassured that the matter had been properly investigated. This was an extremely complex investigation which included the examination of over 160,000 documents by a team of specialist forensic accountants and banking experts, supervised by the Serious and Organised Crime Division. The investigation involved close co-operation with a range of financial regulators and banking institutions, including the Financial Conduct Authority, the Prudential Regulation Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Reporting Council.
Following careful examination of all the evidence seen to date, Crown Counsel have decided that there is insufficient evidence in law of criminal conduct either in relation to RBS as an institution or any directors or other senior management involved in the rights issue.
If any further evidence comes to light which is relevant to this enquiry it will be considered by the Crown and we reserve the right to make further enquiry, if considered appropriate.
I have considered your requests and can advise that we do endeavour to provide information whenever possible. However, with regard to your requests at points 2 and 3 above regarding hours devoted to the investigation and costs of the investigation, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) does not routinely collate the total hours and total costs associated with investigating individual complaints and I can therefore confirm in terms of Section 17 of FOISA that COPFS does not hold the information you have requested.
In respect of points 5, 6, 7 and 8 involving the costs of the services and numbers of hours worked by the forensic accountants and banking experts, we are unable to separate the costs involved in services provided by the accountancy firm who assisted with the investigation or break down their time into hours, but from invoices submitted by this firm the total cost of their services which included Specialist IT and Security Support amounted to £3,050,349.00 (ex VAT) which covered a period of 2,004.6 days.
In respect of points 1, 4 and 9 which involve resourcing of the operation I can advise as follows:
Point 1 – we estimate that there were 17 members of COPFS staff involved in some capacity in the investigation.
Point 4 – we are unable to separate forensic accountants and banking experts as some have both skills, however, there were 25 persons from the accountancy firm who were involved in this investigation. Additionally there were 4 IT support staff and a separately contracted team of 4 staff providing digital forensics work.
Point 9 – we estimate that there were 9 members of COPFS Serious and Organised Crime Division staff involved in some capacity in the investigation.
In relation to points 10 to 14, while I can confirm that COPFS were in possession of statements from RBS staff which were taken by another agency, I consider that the information you have requested is held in connection with an investigation that the Crown had a duty to conduct to determine whether any person should be prosecuted for an offence and is therefore exempt from release in terms of Sections 34(1)(a) and 35(1)(a)(b) and (c). Neither of these are absolute exemptions and I have therefore considered whether the public interest favours the release of the information notwithstanding the exemptions. I have reached the view that there is an overwhelming public interest in maintaining the integrity of such operations and that the public interest therefore falls in favour of maintaining the exemption.