Issue 107

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REAL MEDIA 2018 / ISSUE 107 9 OMERTA: THE VOW OF SILENCE AT RBS A years-long scandal at RBS is continuing to unfold. It involves the bank deliberately crushing and distressing small businesses in its turnaround unit for its own profits. 16,000 businesses went through the unit during the recession and 92% were mis- treated according to a newly available review by the Financial Conduct Authority. How did the scandal get covered up for so long? We talked to financial journalist Ian Fraser about 'Omerta' WHAT IS AN OMERTA? An omerta is a mafia term which relates to a vow of silence, which if you're captured by the police or by your enemies you don't spill the beans on who your colleagues are or what they've been up to within the organisation, in the mafia. This very much applies to the banking sector. There's been an omerta, I believe there is an omerta, and I experienced it when I was trying to research my book to some extent, in that a lot of senior bankers, especially those that are still active in the industry, even if they move to a different institution don't want to tell you about what's happening in their industry. So it's a vow of silence which many bankers seem to have signed it, I don't think there's an official one, I don't think they've actually signed it, but it's a culture of silence, within the city and within the banking sector of persecuting and vilifying whistleblowers. So if you are a whistleblower that identifies wrongdoing and tries to alert the authorities or alert the media to the fact there's been some wrongdoing within your institution, especially in this country the UK, you're actually signing a death warrant because there's no real protection, they will get ostracised by their colleagues, they will never get a job back in that industry and it's so different to the US. The US doesn't do everything perfectly but in terms of the way they treat whistleblowers, it's poles apart to the UK. They give them massive rewards. The regulator gives them hundreds of millions of dollars in rewards so it's a totally different incentive structure for whistleblowers and they are protected there as well. Ian Fraser is the author of 'Shredded: Inside RBS - The Bank That Broke Britain'

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