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Correspondence could be 'treasure trove'

Goodwin forced to hand over private emails in legal action

Fred GoodwinFor six years former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Fred Goodwin has said nothing about his personal involvement in its downfall. Now he has been ordered to reveal his private thoughts on what led up to the biggest ever crisis in British banking.

A High Court has ruled that he hand over private email accounts, mobile phone records and personal computers in the period March 1 2007 to February 28 2009. It will include correspondence with advisers at the time of the £12billion rights issue in early 2008 which is the subject of legal action by a group of shareholders.

The correspondence should cast light on the deliberations of  Mr Goodwin and the bank which, up to now, have been limited to accounts in the media and in books by two Scottish journalists, Iain Martin’s Making it Happen and Ian Fraser’s Shredded. While both provided insight into events surrounding the bank’s collapse, they were forced to rely on interviews with other characters in the drama. Neither got access to Goodwin himself.

Since his infamous appearance before the House of Commons committee in February 2009 alongside his chairman Sir Tom McKillop, and the chief executive and chairman of HBOS, Andy Hornby and Lord Stevenson, he has made no public appearances or utterances in connection with the events that forced RBS into the arms of the taxpayer.

Goodwin has gone to great pains to protect his privacy, initially hiring a former News of the World editor to handle his affairs after his dismissal, and making the dreadful error of stubbornly refusing to hand back his pension, a decision that only demonised him further in the eyes of the public. By the time his pension was cut the damage had been done.

He also took legal action to conceal the name of an RBS employee with whom he was having an affair.

But it appears his luck with the law is about to run out and that he will be among a number of ex-directors who will have to reveal the private email accounts used to discuss the controversial share sale.

A collection of around 12,500 shareholders and institutions is suing the bank and four directors, claiming they were misled into buying shares in the rights issue. One member of the group, Robert Thompson, described the emails as a potential “treasure trove”.

Along with Mr Goodwin, the group is pursuing Sir Tom McKillop, former finance director Guy Whittaker and former chairman of its global banking and markets arm John Cameron.

The group claims the foursome breached the Financial Services and Markets Act, which makes them liable for withheld information. The request for emails was granted at a High Court hearing last week by Mr Justice Hillyard who heard that the four ex-directors had used personal email addresses, rather than official work accounts, to discuss business.

Mr Goodwin and others must now submit information to Herbert Smith Freehills, RBS’s lawyers.

Picture: Fred Goodwin at the Commons hearing in 2009 (BBC)

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