Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch, has today withdrawn and annulled a knighthood given to Fred Goodwin in 2004, heeding the advice given to her by a forfeiture committee. Goodwin is the former chief executive at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) and was awarded his knighthood by the British government of the time for services to banking. The committee concluded “that widespread concerns about Fred Goodwin’s decision meant that the retention of a knighthood for services to banking could not be sustained.”
Goodwin was chief executive of RBS when they purchased ABN AMRO, a Netherlands bank, in 2007. The British government subsequently bailed out RBS for £45 billion, amidst the late-2000s financial crisis.
British prime minister David Cameron stated about the annulment: “The proper process has been followed and I think we’ve ended up with the right decision.” Cameron and Ed Miliband, UK Leader of the Opposition, both believed Goodwin’s knighthood should be removed. Miliband called it “the start of the change we need in our boardrooms.”
Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg considered it to be the “right decision”. “[A]ppropriate” was the word George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer used to describe it. “RBS came to symbolise everything that went wrong in the British economy in the last decade,” Osborne stated. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland stated the title was given “for services to banking which could not therefore be sustained”, calling the decision “correct”.
Goodwin does not have the right to appeal against the decision, nor had the right to provide the forfeiture committee with any representations. The monarch holds sole responsibility for withdrawing all knighthoods; on this occasion Elizabeth II followed the advice of the committee, who decided to recommend the withdrawal to her. The Cabinet Office announced the advice had been given to the queen on the understanding that “Goodwin had brought the honours system in to disrepute”.
Speaking of the “exceptional case”, the committee explained: “In 2008, the government had to provide £20 billion of new equity to recapitalise RBS and ensure its survival and prevent the collapse of confidence in the British banking system. Subsequent increases in government capital have brought the total necessary injection of taxpayers’ money in RBS to £45.5 billion.” The committee understood that “Fred Goodwin was the dominant decision maker at RBS at the time.”
Until this announcement, criminal conviction and professional expulsion were the only causes for which individuals had their knighthoods revoked.