Former Torex boss eyes appeal against ‘apparent bias’ in RBS High Court ruling

Telegraph, 30.05.17

 

The boss of a collapsed software firm who claimed Royal Bank of Scotland forced the business into administration is attempting to overturn a High Court judge’s decision to dismiss his £128m lawsuit.

 

Neil Mitchell, the former chief executive of Torex Retail, has lodged permission to appeal on the grounds that Judge Malcolm Davis-White QC should have recused himself from proceedings because of “apparent bias”.

 

The Scottish businessman also argues there were a number of incorrect procedural approaches by the judge, who ruled earlier this month that some of the claims made by Mr Mitchell were “confused, imprecise and unclear to such an extent that I consider it vexatious”.

 

It marks the latest stage of Mr Mitchell’s long-running battle against the bank.

 

He has been an outspoken critic of RBS ever since Torex’s failure in 2007, when the software business became engulfed in scandal and was sold to US private equity firm Cerberus for £204m.

 

Mr Mitchell alleges that RBS conspired with Cerberus and KPMG to sell the business on the cheap and is seeking damages. Judge Davis-White QC ruled that the businessman’s claims were unlikely to be successful in a full trial and that the alleged conspiracy “makes little sense”.

 

However, in court papers detailing Mr Mitchell’s grounds for appeal, it is argued that a “fair-minded and informed observer is likely to conclude that there is an appearance of bias” on the behalf of the judge. This is because the judge disclosed during the hearing into the businessman’s claims that he banked with RBS and had in the past acted for one of Torex’s administrators.

 

Mr Mitchell’s continued pursuit of RBS comes as the bank battles to distance itself from its troubled past. This week the taxpayer-owned lender is aiming to settle a £520m lawsuit by disgruntled shareholders who claim the prospectus for its £12bn rights issue during the financial crisis misled investors, allegations the bank denies.

 

Mr Mitchell’s lawsuit also relates to RBS’ difficult past.

 

Torex was handled by the bank’s controversial Global Restructuring Group (GRG), a now-defunct division that focused on struggling small businesses. A report into GRG by the Financial Conduct Authority found that there was “inappropriate treatment” by the division of some firms and the bank last year set aside £400m for compensation.

 

An RBS spokesman said: “We have consistently maintained, over a number of years, that Mr Mitchell’s claims are without merit.”