A crunch High Court trial over Royal Bank of Scotland’s crisis-era rights issue is expected to be adjourned for 24 hours after the lender made a last-minute attempt to settle with aggrieved shareholders.
The taxpayer-owned bank has doubled its settlement offer to 82p a share in a late attempt to avert an embarrassing 14-week trial that was due to start this morning and would see its infamous former chief executive Fred Goodwin take to the witness stand.
It is understood that a judge is expected to adjourn the trial for a day to give time for RBS to reach a last-ditch agreement with its shareholders.
Investors have accused the lender of misleading them about its financial health when it tapped them for £12bn during the 2008 financial crisis. Just months after the cash call RBS was forced into a Government bailout that inflicted losses of about 80pc on shareholders who had backed the company in the fundraising.
RBS has already settled with 87pc of the claimants after it set aside £800m in December to reach a deal with investors. It settled with the bulk of the claimants at 41p, before lifting its offer to 43p late last month to reach agreement with more of the investors.
However, some 9,000 retail investors and about 20 institutional shareholders have so far refused to settle with the bank, raising the prospect of a drawn-out and expensive trial. RBS is now seeking to reach a deal with them instead of fighting it out in the High Court.
The bank has already spent £100m preparing for the legal clash and is expected to rack up a further £25m in costs during the 14-week trial.
Originally, the claimants were seeking £4bn in compensation from the bank, although the claim has fallen to about £500m because the majority of shareholders have settled.