RBS Norfolk whistleblower: ‘Battle with bank ruined my health’
It cost him his job, mental health and future finances, but a former RBS manager says he is still trying to get answers about alleged wrongdoing he raised with the taxpayer-owned bank.
“I am horrified by the shameful treatment of this man.”
Those were the words of North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb to the House of Commons last year about his constituent Mark Wright.
Mr Wright says he suffered seven years of stress at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) when he tried to whistleblow about wrongdoing in 2005.
He finally left the bank in 2012 after his GP had diagnosed him with long-term mental health problems.
Today he speaks out for the first time about his experiences with RBS and his illness.
“It destroyed my career and my health,” he said. “Having all this going on whilst having a young family has been tough beyond words.”
The 44-year old worked for NatWest and then RBS from 1988 until 2012 and worked his way up to the wealth management section of RBS.
He had an unblemished record until 2005 when he began raising concerns that customers’ files had allegedly been falsified in the section of the bank which is meant to make sure the rest of the bank is behaving – compliance.
He raised his concerns when he discovered that someone in the compliance section of the bank had alleged five customers had complained about him, while they were carrying out a check.
But the complaints, he found, had been fabricated.
In a grievance to the bank before he left, he said he was “confident” and in control of his life until that routine check.
He wanted a full, external investigation into the compliance section of RBS to find out why the complaints about him had been made up and how widespread file falsification was.
He raised these concerns in 2005, 2008 and again in 2012 before he left suffering with mental health problems.
RBS told him the concerns were fully investigated and bad practice was restricted to two employees within the compliance section who had since left the bank, meaning there was little they could do.
His complaint alleging wrongdoing in compliance was upheld in 2005, but the father-of-two was no longer treated as a top employee.
His employment status within RBS was changed to “undesirable” when previously he had been classed as “excellent”. Bonuses were also stopped.
His mental health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with stress in 2007, but he said extra pressure was put on him at work.
His GP finally recommended in 2012 he needed to take long-term sick leave.
Mr Wright accepted a pay-off of £52,000 but had to sign a compromise agreement which stated his complaints had all been fully resolved.
“I was speaking out but nothing happened,” Mr Wright claimed. “I had no alternative but to leave.”
He has been supported since 2013 by his MP Norman Lamb, who raised his case in a House of Commons debate about bank regulation in December.
“He ended up leaving on agreed terms simply to end the nightmare that he was going through, but his concerns were not diminished in any way,” Mr Lamb said. “The whole saga has destroyed this man’s life.”
The MP has been writing to RBS since 2013 to ask for a meeting about the concerns Mr Wright raised and the way he was treated, but his requests for a meeting have been denied.
“They (RBS) hide behind the compromise agreement reached with this man to say that they are not prepared to engage with him at all any further,” Mr Lamb said. “It seems to be an arrogant and cavalier way to treat a former, highly successful employee. They have a total disregard for the impact on this man’s health.
“My constituent’s conclusion is that it is not safe to blow the whistle. We should be celebrating whistleblowers; they risk everything to expose wrongdoing.”
RBS said they could not comment on individual cases but said they treated whistleblowing seriously.
A spokesperson said: “Each concern is considered and where required allocated to an independent investigator to examine the specific issues to establish the underlying facts.
“Feeling free to speak up is valued at RBS and we will protect anyone raising a genuine concern. Depending on the concern, it may be that there is a more appropriate, existing process in place for some issues and customer complaints are in the first instance referred to the appropriate complaints team.”
After leaving the bank, Mr Wright began working with a group of former RBS business customers who allege the bank ruined their firms and took their assets by putting them into the restructuring division of the bank.
Around 500 businesses are currently suing RBS accusing the bank of destroying firms when they were put in part of the bank called the Global Restructuring Group (GRG) Unit between 2008 and 2013.
As previously reported in this newspaper, Norwich architect Andi Gibbs is one of those taking action against RBS accusing them of ruining one of his businesses in 2008.
RBS denies businesses were deliberately seized, but it announced a compensation scheme in November last year worth £400m for customers affected.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is still investigating those claims which date from 2008 to 2013.
An update about the ongoing FCA investigation which was published last year found the bank did not set out to force customers into GRG but there was “widespread inappropriate treatment” of some business customers.
Mr Wright, who was working for RBS at that time, has backed the claims made by some small business customers.
He said: “In 2009 we knew the balance sheet was a real problem at RBS.
“There was a real fear that we were going to have a Northern Rock-style run on the bank. GRG was a way of bring in money.”
This is denied by RBS, which said there was no evidence the bank deliberately tried to get small businesses to fail.
In the parliamentary debate MPs called on the Financial Conduct Authority to help business owners who had lost their companies.
Mr Lamb was supported in the debate by the SNP’s East Lothian MP George Kerevan and Labour MP for Delyn in Wales David Hanson, who said one of his constituents Clive May lost his business after being put into the GRG.
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