Peer review: Sir Fred’s blushes saved by Knight in shining armour

It says plenty about Britain that most of the public buzz around Sir Fred Goodwin is about the threat to his knighthood.

The former RBS boss is in the proverbial dock after it emerged that his lawyers insisted on removing a reference to his inexperience from the 450-page FSA report on the bank’s 2008 crisis.

Former Simmons & Simmons senior partner Bill Knight told the Treasury Select Committee precisely this last Tuesday (24 January). Knight, now chair of the Financial Reporting Review Panel, was brought in as an independent reviewer alongside former banker Sir David Walker to make sure the FSA put out an accurate report.

Knight told the committee that it was true the reference to Sir Fred had been changed and that in early drafts there was a suggestion he lacked the experience to run an international bank.

The text was changed during a procedure known as ’Maxwellisation’ – after an investigation into Robert Maxwell’s publishing empire – which allows people to respond to criticism against them.

“It’s true that the references to Sir Fred were changed following Maxwellisation,” the former Simmons boss told the committee. “But in my judgment that was a fair change. The change was that there was [previously] a suggestion that he lacked the experience to run an international bank […] There was no evidence of lack of competence in terms of experience of running an international bank.”