RBS High Court battle with shareholders due to resume after adjournment

A legal action by thousands of shareholders against Royal Bank of Scotland is due to return to court today following a 24-hour adjournment for settlement talks.

The much-anticipated trial was due to begin at the High Court in London on Monday.

But, at the outset of the proceedings, the judge hearing the claims was asked to grant a day's adjournment for discussions between the claimants and the defendants to continue.

Mr Justice Hildyard was told by Jonathan Nash QC, for the shareholders: "The parties are currently involved in settlement discussions and are hopeful of making progress."

Mr Nash added: "They have agreed that these discussions would be facilitated by allowing a further period of time for them to continue before the trial begins."

The judge gave the go-ahead for the adjournment on the basis the parties agreed there should be a delay for talks and the assurance given that there was a prospect that the "matter can be brought to a conclusion".

He added: "Obviously I would wish to facilitate that result."

The case is in the court list for 1030 today when Mr Justice Hildyard is expected to be updated on the outcome of the talks.

According to reports, RBS made a last-ditch attempt to avoid the legal battle by doubling its settlement offer.

Chief executive Ross McEwan is said to have told the bank's lawyers on Sunday to offer 82p a share, although it remains unclear whether it would be accepted by investors, a report by Sky News said.

If the 14-week trial does go ahead, former boss Fred Goodwin is expected to defend his role in the lender's near-collapse at the height of the financial crisis.

Mr Goodwin and a raft of former executives are due to be questioned as part of a £700 million lawsuit brought against the lender by 9,000 retail investors and 18 institutions in the RBS Shareholder Action Group.

The majority of the claims have been settled out of court.

Disgraced former chief executive Mr Goodwin, who was stripped of his knighthood following the bank's near-collapse, will answer questions over the events leading up to the Government's £45.5 billion bailout nine years ago.

The legal action centres on a rights issue overseen by Mr Goodwin in April 2008 when RBS asked existing shareholders to pump £12 billion into the bank after leading a consortium that spent £49 billion on Dutch lender ABN Amro.

Shareholders claim they were left nursing hefty losses following the cash call after RBS shares plunged 90% and the Government was forced to step in when the deal turned toxic.

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