Royal Bank of Scotland plc (RBS) shares bumped higher Wednesday after the government-backed lender reached a $4.9 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for its role in mis-selling mortgage-backed securities during the run up to the global financial crisis.
The settlement, announced late Tuesday in a DoJ statement, removes one of the final clouds of uncertainty hanging over the state-backed bank, which in turn revealed plans to pay its first interim dividend in more than a decade. The 2 pence per share payout will be released on October 12, the bank said, while the impact of its DoJ settlement was booked in the groups first half earnings.
"We are pleased to have reached a final settlement with the DoJ and that we can focus our energy on serving our customers better and returning capital to our shareholders," said CEO Ross McEwan. "This settlement dates back to the period between 2005 and 2007. There is no place for the sort of unacceptable behaviour alleged by the DoJ at the bank we are building today."
RBS shares were marked 0.33% higher in the opening hour of trading in London and changing hands at 243 pence each, a move that still leaves the stock down around 12.5% for the year.
The U.K. government, which stepped into the British banking sector during the peak of the financial crisis to rescue both RBS and Lloyds Banking Group, owns 62.4% of the London-based bank, purchased at an average price of 502.5 pence, having last sold a 77% stake in June at a loss of £2.1 billion ($2.7 billion) to the British taxpayer.
The DoJ said the $4.9 billion fine was the largest ever paid by a single institution under the 1989 Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act and insisted that RBS sold MBS deals that, despite assurances, "were backed by mortgage loans with a high risk of default."
"Many Americans suffered lasting economic harm as a result of the 2008 financial crisis," said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. "This settlement holds RBS accountable for serious misconduct that contributed to that financial crisis, and it sends an important message that the Department of Justice will pursue financial institutions that illicitly harm the American economy and our consumers."