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RBS Fined $1 Billion in Investor Lawsuit

Royal Bank of Scotland has agreed to pay $1 billion over allegations it misled shareholders during a fundraising at the height of the financial crisis.

The state-controlled British bank said on Monday it had struck a deal with three of the five investor groups involved in the lawsuit. It is now trying to reach an agreement with the others in order to avoid a potentially embarrassing trial.

A flag flies above the head office of RBS in St Andrew Square in Edinburgh
A flag flies above the head office of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in St Andrew Square in Edinburgh, Scotland. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/File Photo

Thousands of retail investors have yet to agree to the split settlement, which adds a fresh dimension to an unprecedented English lawsuit that stands out for its size and complexity.

The investors allege RBS failed to give them a proper picture of its finances during a 2008 fundraising.

They lost most of their money when RBS nearly collapsed a few months later and had to be bailed out by the British government, costing taxpayers more than 45 billion pounds.

Related: RBS Warns Customers May Have to Pay to Make a Deposit

Monday's deal includes a settlement with Standard Life, Legal & General, Aviva and Prudential and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which together bought about 10 percent of the 2008 share issue.

RBS is attempting to settle a range of fines and lawsuits related to its alleged misconduct before and during the financial crisis, which have hindered its plans to return to profit and private ownership.

Last week, the bank was the biggest failure in the Bank of England's annual stress test of lenders, partly because of a mounting legal bill for misconduct that analysts and lawyers had previously estimated could cost the bank up to $27 billion.

Although RBS has set aside an unprecedented amount to cover an out-of-court settlement for a case involving allegations of misrepresentation, it represents a good deal for the bank, according to Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec. "If it leads to a settlement with all the parties I would characterize that with a sense of relief," he said.

Chief Executive Ross McEwan welcomed the partial settlement as a sign RBS is a drawing a line under its troubled past and said he hoped the remaining groups would accept the offer. RBS shares were up 1.1 percent to 195.5 pence at 1118 GMT.

The deal moves the bank closer to avoiding a lengthy trial scheduled for March next year that could force its former executives to take to the stand to discuss the darkest period in the bank's almost three-century history.