March 9 2014 Latest news:
Ben Woods, Business writer
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
A Norfolk businessman’s six-year battle with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) could be drawing to a close after the bank agreed to investigate claims that it sparked his firm’s collapse.
Andy Keats, 53, said RBS had made a “conciliatory move” by assigning a lawyer to look into his complaints, which centre around allegations that the bank forced his business Keepsafe into closure because it was deemed too risky.
Yesterday, the former police sergeant said he had forgiven the bank for what he described as the “saddest day of his life”, when he made a tearful announcement to his staff that his firm had gone bust and its 30-strong workforce would be made redundant.
But the father-of-three vowed not to put the personal nightmare behind him until he had reached a negotiated settlement with RBS over his former business, which produced ID tags for pets and was profitable with a £1m annual turnover when his dispute began.
The decision by RBS to appoint law firm Eversheds to Mr Keats’ case came as the Norfolk businessman travelled to London to discuss his saga with the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority.
RBS is currently at the centre of a national probe amid allegations that it forced companies into default to seize their properties.
Mr Keats, of Church Lane, East Tuddenham, near Dereham, said: “It is clearly a conciliatory move. They want to find a resolution and we are extremely happy that this is what they want to do.
“I have already forgiven the bank for what has happened because I don’t want to hold a hate campaign, but I haven’t forgotten what has happened yet. But I am hoping that a resolution may help me to do that.”
Mr Keats said the year after the dispute began in 2006, RBS terminated its agreement with Keepsafe for a second time – on this occasion for good – and rendered the firm immediately insolvent by withholding customers’ payments.
Meanwhile, mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman, who has been supporting Mr Keats, said: “I am delighted that having worked with Andy over the last six years, and seen the extent of the gruelling experience that he, his family and his company have been put through since RBS arbitrarily decided to cease processing his growing business’ transactions, that the bank appear to have began proceeding to agree a negotiated settlement.
“I will continue to work as a constituency MP for Mr Keats through that process and he will obviously need to negotiate with his lawyers to make a decision on how to proceed on the legal advice he is given. “But there is also a wider public issue here that a publicly owned bank, which the government is looking to return to private sector ownership appears to be still preoccupied by the fallout of the 2008 banking crisis.
“And furthermore, I am very concerned that in this particular case, as with the wider banking failures, nobody in the banks appears to being held responsible for what has gone on. “For the public to have real confidence in our banking system, its vital that the banks are held to account for the failures that the rest of us have to pick up the bill.
An RBS spokesman said it would not be able to comment on an individual customer’s case.
A “shoo-before-shooting” policy to control pigeons has been described by a leading Norfolk farmer as “completely bonkers”.