The Solicitors Regulation Authority will ask to see evidence collected by financial watchdogs into possible conflicts involving lawyers seconded to banking giant RBS.
The decision follows a Financial Conduct Authority report into the bank’s mistreatment of small and medium-sized businesses in the aftermath of the 2008 crash. The report raises concerns about lawyers and other professional services staff seconded to work in the bank’s Global Restructuring Group.
One case was highlighted where a solicitor acted for the bank on a customer’s case while a permanent employee of a legal firm and being paid by that firm. The solicitor, who was not named, requested a tender from their own firm, using their GRG email account, and submitted the tender to the GRG relationship manager on behalf of the firm.
However, it was found that while working on the case, the seconded solicitor had been privy to tenders received from other law firms in relation to the same work.
The FCA’s report states there was no evidence that GRG sought to manage the potential conflict presented by the use of seconded staff, with customers concerned that RBS was ‘too close’ to third-party firms when they were using seconded staff from those firms.
An SRA spokesman confirmed it will contact the FCA for details of its findings. That could lead to possible investigation of conflicts created by lawyers on secondment. ‘We are seeking further information before deciding on any next steps,’ the spokesperson said.
RBS has acknowledged that mistakes were made in the treatment of SME customers and created a complaints process for those affected to seek redress. Chief executive Ross McEwan said: ‘The culture, structure and the way RBS operates today have all changed fundamentally since the period under review.’