With the football World Cup in full swing, a different kind of ‘match’ took place recently in the UK High Court, London. Four former Premier League footballers, Robbie Savage, Danny Murphy, both BBC soccer pundits, Brian Deane and Jason Wilcox, sued Royal Bank of Scotland, owner of Coutts, the Queen’s Bank for being in ‘joint enterprise’ with their advisers over a controversial property scheme that left a raft of stars with substantial losses.
The lawsuit relates to investments that were originally made in 2004 for the purchase of apartments in Monte Resina, Spain which cost a total of €7 million (£6.1 million) and investments in Charlotte Harbor in Florida. The development in Spain comprised 10 apartments in a single complex and the claimants each bought one flat. Coutts and RBS Gibraltar were the banks that provided lending for the investments. The investment was presented to them by their adviser; the now liquidated Formation Asset Management, which was formerly known as Kingsbridge Asset Management, and its directors David McKee and Kevin McMenamin.
The four claimed the investment was only made possible by an 85% interest only loan that Coutts supposedly helped to broker. They say this meant Coutts and their advisers acted in joint enterprise.
The High Court has now ruled against the plaintiffs.
According to the ruling, the claimants failed prove that Coutts had not carried out proper checks required through its normal banking practice when it investigated a loan to the scheme. Furthermore the judge concluded that Coutts relationship manager Ian Turland had not exercised any undue influence over RBS Gibraltar credit committee when it decided to lend to the scheme. ‘I do not consider it is necessary to review the joint enterprise element of the claim at great length because it does not, on its own, reveal a cause of action,’ said chief justice Master Marsh in his judgement. ‘The claimants have no real prospect of establishing that Mr Turland and/or Coutts had the capacity to persuade RBS Gibraltar’s credit committee to lend other than in accordance with its usual risk practices.’
The lesson to be taken from this case? If an investment seem too good to be true, it usually is.