Judge expected to hear whether RBS legal action has been resolved

Updated: 

RBS lawsuit

A High Court judge is expected to hear today whether a multimillion-pound legal action brought by thousands of shareholders against Royal Bank of Scotland has been resolved.

Mr Justice Hildyard was told at a hearing in London on Tuesday that the "majority" of claimants had indicated a willingness to settle the case.

He granted an adjournment of the proceedings until today for settlement discussions to continue between the claimants and the bank.

The much-anticipated civil trial was due to begin on Monday and last for 14 weeks, but it has not started due to on-going talks.

Jonathan Nash QC, for the claimants, told the judge: "The present position is that the majority of claimants have indicated their willingness to accept the latest offer from the defendant."

He said on Tuesday: "There now appears to be a good prospect that within the course of today the remaining claimants, or nearly all, will confirm they will also agree in principle so as to bring a practical end to the proceedings."

The legal action centres on a rights issue overseen by former boss Fred 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 claimed they were left nursing hefty losses following the cash call after RBS shares plunged 90% and the Government was forced to step in with a £45.5 billion bailout when the deal turned toxic.

The judge said: "There is obvious interest in the court in seeking to facilitate a full and final settlement agreeable to the parties."

Mr Nash said if the trial does go ahead the parties were confident it could still be heard within the allotted time.

If the litigation does proceed disgraced former chief executive Mr Goodwin - who was stripped of his knighthood following the bank's near collapse - and a raft of former executives are expected 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 bank has previously settled compensation claims brought against it by other shareholder groups in connection with the 2008 rights issue.

But the lender, which is still 73% owned by the Government, stressed payments were made without any admission of liability.