10 things you may not have known about RBS
10 things you may not have known about the bank you own:
We own 84% of RBS. They’ll be announcing their profits this week, and UK Uncutters across the country will be sitting in branches to remind everyone who it is that caused this crisis – and who is paying for it. But I thought I’d do a quick guide to some stuff you might not have known about RBS.
1) As of January 2009, the RBS group were (by assets) the biggest company on earth.
2) According to a report by CAS Business School expert Nick Silver, RBS is responsible for financing projects and companies delivering 3% of globl carbon emissions – more than the entire UK.
3) According to a 2008 report by War on Want, RBS were the main bankers to 4 major arms companies, including BaE systems.
4) The RBS group owns a bunch of companies, including:
Citizens Financial Group
Coutts & Co.
Adam and Company
Child & Co.
5) RBS subsidiary Citizens Financial Group – itself the 8th largest bank in the USA, and is under investigation for its role in the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
6) RBS Subsidiary Coutts & Co; are private bankers to the mega-rich, who specialise in helping them dodge tax – as their website says::
“Our tax team works closely with your private banker to understand your particular situation so that you receive bespoke advice tailored to your circumstances.
Whether you are an entrepreneur selling your business, an executive with complex share schemes, a non-UK domiciled individual living in the UK or simply looking to structure your affairs more tax efficiently, the tax team can assist”.
Yes, that’s right, a bank that’s 84% owned by the government is specialising in helping the mega-rich avoid paying taxes to the government.
Other subsidiaries – Adam and Company and Child and Co – are also solely for ‘high net worth individuals’. Adam and Company also offer tax advice, while Child & Co seem to be so exclusive, that I can’t find their website!
7) In 2009 (after the bail-out) RBS provided tens of millions in finance for Irish Company Tullow Oil to explore for oil from an island on lake Albert, whose ownership is claimed by both Uganda and the DR Congo – a region that has seen millions die in a resource fuelled war in recent years. When oil was discovered, troops were mobilised on both sides and the media and human rights observers were not allowed access. Tullow’s partners, Heritage Oil, then (according to the UN) armed these troops with speed boats and land-rovers. Despite widespread outcry from human rights groups, publicly owned RBS co-ordinated another round of financing of nearly £1 billion for this project in 2010.
8. RBS are one of the main targets of the campaign against depleted uranium, because of their significant role in financing the stuff.
9) According to Amnesty International: “The Royal Bank of Scotland, together with other well known high street financial institutions such as Barclays and HSBC, are providing investment to the tune of around £800 million to the producers of cluster bombs”
10) Last year’s RBS Bonus pot was £1.3 Billion.
Yes, that’s right. This is the bank that the government owns 84% of – that we won 84% of.
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Andy – indeed!
Excellent post. Hope to see a lot of people out on Saturday:
Might go in to RBS on Saturday, open an account and insist they deposit my share of the money loaned to them by myself as a taxpayer, and my share of the hideously enormous bonus kitty.
Then on Sunday I can retire.
“Armed these groups with speedboats and Landrovers. These items are not normally considered weapons”
Suggesting that they wouldn’t be involved in perpetuating the conflict is pretty ridiculous though. It’s not hyperbole – it’s using common sense. There’s a big difference between selling a speedboat to a pleasure seeking rich kid, and selling one to a milita planning to use it to kill and threaten.
“But you know that don’t you.”
Every time a bank makes a loan, it implictly supports the activity. If there are widespread calls for it not to make that loan, or clear risks that the loan will be used for disreputable, criminal or immoral acts, banks should and can choose not to make those loans.
If the fact that they don’t isn’t news, that’s only because we’ve become anaesthetised to banks/bankers operating in a different moral sense to other actors in society and human beings in general.
It might not be news, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t publicise it with the ultimate aim of stopping it.
Jackart – when you give landrovers and speedboats to armies, these are normally considered weapons. That’s why it’s perfectly normal to include these things in arms embargoes.
£1.3 bn, eh? And I thought this government was cracking down on over-paid public sector workers…
To Michael Cutler –
Owning 84% means we own 84% of RBS’s shares. This is one form of ownership structure – it is a company owned by shareholders (a publicly traded plc) as opposed to a mutual (owned by its customers).
Theoretically, the government has a majority say in running the company (or at least putting pressure on management) in the same way a pension fund/individual that owned 84% of the shares in a company would etc.
In reality, shareholder ownership usually means shareholders get a dividend/percentage of the profits, get the right to vote on some things the board puts forward (eg. remuneration, approving accounts), and can raise issues at AGMs. In all three areas, control usually really resides with the management, which shareholders generally follow. Where they don’t (eg. shareholder activism re: arms / oil company behaviour, shareholders can be ignored unless they represent a large enough share – 84% probably would qualify!)
In the case of government owning shares of RBS, the government has created a new arms-length body – UK Financial Investments – made up of people from the financial sector who are tasked with managing government bank ownership “in the interests of the taxpayer”. What this boils down to is that the government wants to sell it’s shares for more than it paid for them (or at least as much as it paid) – so as not to make a loss. Beyond that, all the talk of government pushing restraint on bonusses etc is basically lipservice. It should mean something, but it seems to be PR for the public rather than a genuine attempt to exercise the positition of influence the government is in. The counter argument is that the government needs to allow the bank to be competitive (in order to fulfill its first aim of profitable sale, and because this is ideologically part of their vision of the value of banks in a capitalist economy)
The government is also ideologically committed to the idea that businesses should not be run by government and that privatisation will improve ‘efficiency’. Personally, I think this argument is a load of rubbish, but it is nonetheless where they are coming from and why they are not treating their 84% ownership of RBS (and 100% ownership of Northern Rock) as nationalisation/socialisation (with implications for running the organisation in the interests of the nation/society), but as if they are a large individual shareholder/company making an investment.
Hope that explains it. This is UKFI’s website which explains their presentation of some of this: http://www.ukfi.co.uk/. There are other articles etc available on the internet which will present a more critical analysis of this too.
Armed these groups with speedboats and Landrovers. These items are not normally considered weapons, unless you’re racistly alleging africans can’t drive.
Oil co’s borrow from banks and operate in shitholes isn’t disreptuable, nor is it news.
There’s so much hilarious hyperbole, hinting and downright dishonesty in this post. But you know that don’t you.
Just wondering what ‘owning 84%’ actually means. In physical tangible terms. Does it mean the government has a say in running the company? Does it mean it receives 84% of the dividends (or profits!)? Does it simply refer to the amount of money paid to keep it afloat, and if so what does it get in return? I genuinely want to know! I keep hearing ‘we own the bank’ but it seems clear we do not, at least not in any way that might benefit us, or the government.
It means the government owns 84% of the shares in the bank. We don’t have direct public control, but as th majority shareholder we could remove the board and replace them with people who would act differently. We certainly don’t get 84% of the profits, though we may get 84% of the dividends.