The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is still 84% owned by the taxpayer, has been fined over £28 million for price fixing.

This came about at the beginning of the credit crunch when two RBS employees, according to RBS, disclosed to Barclays employees confidential information on the level of charges RBS intended to charge for two loan facilities. The information was essentially about how RBS intended to charge large professional firms such as accountants, real estate companies and solicitors for loans.

This allowed Barclays to fix their charges in response, a clear breach of Office of Fair Trading (OFT) competition rules. Especially as RBS and Barclays are the largest players in this sector.

Barclays, who were obviously also implicated, got away without a fine because they were the ones that stepped forward and approached the OFT with the information.

RBS had the original fine amount of £33.6 million scaled back slightly or admitting guilt and co-operating with the OFT.

The OFT's senior director of Cartels and criminal enforcement said "Any company that discloses confidential future pricing information to its competitors risks a substantial penalty. It is important that companies operating in the UK understand the seriousness of such conduct."

This fine could have been as high as 10% of the bank's annual turnover, which would have crippled it permanently probably sending it under. But the amount eventually fined comes to about 0.1% of turnover.

The record for this type of offence was £121 million fine for BA for fuel surcharge collaboration with Virgin Airways.

What this amounts to is a public body has fined an 84% publicly owned body, presumably with lawyers in between. The final tab will either be picked up by the RBS clients or the taxpayer, not those responsible. Both banks will carry on as normal. Banks bailed out, bonuses bailed out now fines bailed out.

What this must look like to a small company who is in desperate need of an overdraft or loan to pay their staff one can only surmise.

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