The new team of lawyers and accountants is asking small and medium-sized businesses to come forward and join hundreds of people who were affected.
RBS GRG Litigation (RGL) said that it has raised a fresh fighting fund, already deposited with lawyers Enyo Law, needed to investigate the claims and bring them to court as soon as this year.
RGL has appointed Enyo Law to lead the claim, and will be instructing Lord Pannick, QC, and Andrew Hunter, QC, from Blackstone chambers to pursue the action.
James Hayward, chief executive for RGL, said: “RBS’s actions have destroyed businesses, livelihoods and in many cases the lives of their owners, so I am delighted we have funding in place to begin the process towards taking action against those responsible.”
Hayward hopes that “ordinary hardworking people” will be able to take their claims to court and win compensation for their losses.
This is not the first attempt to pursue damages as Enyo Law was previously instructed by the RBS GRG Business Action Group. The law firm is also the third to be appointed to pursue claims after previous attempts by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Clyde & Co.
The RBS GRG division was created to handle loans classed as being risky and is understood to have had the power to scrap loan deals, impose inflated interest rates and charge hefty penalties.
A report compiled by the then entrepreneur in residence Lawrence Tomlinson in November 2013, detailed a series of allegations that firms not necessarily in immediate financial distress were “engineered” into GRG, sometimes through small technical breaches of loan terms, such as late filing of minor financial information.
Once within GRG firms were hit with high rates and fees, which in some cases cause them to collapse, allowing RBS to buy their property and assets at below the market rate for the benefit of its West Register property arm, it is alleged.
Ross McEwan, chief executive of RBS personally commissioned a report by law firm Clifford Chance which was issued in April 2014.
Clifford Chance said it had found “no evidence” of wrongdoing by RBS and that its review of the bank’s controversial GRG had found nothing to suggest small business customers had failed because of actions taken by the lender.
The law firm added that there were areas in which the bank needed to improve its processes for handling small business customers. The report noted that it found it difficult to understand how the bank calculated its fees and said greater transparency was needed.
Clifford Chance also highlighted that a training manual for GRG staff appeared to suggest that employees should negotiate greater “upsides”, or additional fees, using the withdrawal of overdraft facilities as a point of leverage to get customers to agree to more onerous terms.
RBS declined to comment.