April 24 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
A Norfolk businessman who claims the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) caused the collapse of his profitable company has launched a national support group to help other alleged victims of malpractice.
Andy Keats, 53, of Church Lane, East Tuddenham, near Dereham, has formed the Serious Banking Complaints Bureau (SBCB) with two other RBS complainants.
Since launching the not-for-profit organisation last month more than 50 people have already made contact, alleging that RBS malpractice cost them their business.
The organisation is working in partnership with Manchester-based law firm Berg Solicitors which already has 150 RBS complainants on its books; it has also forged links with London-based private prosecution specialists Edmunds Marshall McMahon and provides information to the Police and Serious Fraud Office.
SBCB’s remit is to initially filter, investigate and analyse bank complaints looking for systematic abusive behaviour patterns, similarities with other complaints and criminal behaviour and or sharp business practice.
Mr Keats said: “After analysis and investigation, we guide people in the right direction in terms of litigation funding and expertise through Berg Solicitors and Police/SFO involvement when required.”
He said they had a specialist team on hand, which included retired Metropolitan Police officers.
“As a not-for-profit organisation we initially provide a free telephone consultation. Provided the complaint is serious in nature and needs further investigative work or specialist assistance, SBCB make a £1000 charge which includes 18 hours of investigation, taking statements and getting the file ready for solicitors,” he said.
The former police sergeant has been battling for justice for seven years, since what he describes as a “crazy” decision by the bank forced the closure of his business Keepsafe with the loss of 30 jobs in Dereham.
His case was only brought to public attention in the autumn when Lawrence Tomlinson, entrepreneur at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, disclosed a dossier of evidence that allegedly showed the bank deliberately forced companies into default to seize their properties.
While the subsequent investigation by city watchdogs is focusing on the turnaround division of RBS, Global Restructuring Group, and its handling of loans classed as risky, Mr Keats said his own difficulties had occurred without Keepsafe owing the bank a penny.
He said his firm, which produced ID tags for pets with an attendant telephone contact service, was “highly profitable” with an annual turnover of £1m when his dispute with RBS, which extended Keepsafe’s debit and credit card facilities, came out of the blue.
He said: “RBS decided one day that if we were to stop trading all our customers would go to the bank to reclaim their entire money - even up to 10 years afterwards.”
A year after the dispute began in 2006 RBS finally terminated its agreement with Keepsafe and rendered the firm insolvent by withholding customers’ payments for goods and services purchased.
A website is in the process of being set up; until then the group can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
A spokesman RBS was unavailable for comment.