Five questions answered on the RBS investor compensation claim

There is a £3.5bn compensation claim against the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Thousands of investors have launched a £3.5bn compensation claim against the 82 per cent state owned Royal Bank of Scotland. We answer five questions on the claims.

What are this group of investors seeking compensation for?

The group are raising the claim against the bank as they believe the bank deliberately misled them into believing it was in good financial shape just before it collapsed in 2008.

After collapsing the bank was then bailed out by the government.

How many investors are involved in the suit against the bank?

12,000 private shareholders and 100 institutional investors.

These include 20 charities, churches, pension funds, hedge funds, fund managers and private client brokers, who collectively manage £200bn.

Are any individual bank members also being sued?

Yes, former chairman Sir Tom McKillop is also being sued, as well as Johnny Cameron and Guy Whittaker, who were also senior members of the bank at the time.

Former Chief Executive Fred Goodwin is also being sued by the group.

What have the investors said?

In a statement the group said:

"The action group maintains that the bank's directors sought to mislead shareholders by misrepresenting the underlying strength of the bank and omitting critical information from the 2008 rights issue prospectus.

"This means that RBS will be liable for the losses incurred on shares..."

A spokesman for the investors told the BBC: "Today represents a giant step forward for the many thousands of ordinary people who lost money as the result of inexcusable actions taken by banks and their directors in the financial crisis.

"Now, for the first time, some of these directors will have to answer for their actions in a British court."

What happens next?

The Royal Bank of Scotland has 30 days to respond to the class action which has been raised with the High Court of Justice's Chancery Division in London.

The group have estimated they could receive as much as £4bn from the claim.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.