Royal Bank of Scotland and its NatWest division have been fined 14.5 million pounds (18.25 million euros) for giving home loans to people without properly checking if they could afford to pay them back.
Britain’s financial regulator levied the fine because between mid-2011and early last year, the banks did not consider the full extent of customers’ budgets in their mortgage affordability assessments.
The Financial Conduct Authority said RBS and NatWest failed to properly advise customers looking to consolidate debt and to recommend the most appropriate mortgage term.
Only two out of 164 cases reviewed were found to meet the required standard.
RBS could now face compensation claims from customers.
The fine deals another setback for Chief Executive Ross McEwan, whose efforts to turn around the bank are being hampered by ongoing investigations into past misconduct.
McEwan said: “Taking out a mortgage is one of the biggest moments in our lives, and our customers have every right to expect the very best service when making this decision. It is clear that in the past the bank just didn’t get this right. This was unacceptable and should never have happened.”
The mortgage failures are particularly embarrassing for McEwan because, unlike other scandals like the fixing of benchmark interest rates, they happened on his watch.
McEwan was appointed to lead RBS’s retail division in August 2012 before becoming chief executive in October 2013.
RBS said that, since November 2012, it had completely overhauled its mortgage sales process, re-trained all its mortgage advisers and introduced new sales procedures.
The bank is 81 percent owned by the British government after having to be bailed out following poor business decisions in the run-up to the financial crisis. It posted an 8.2 billion pound (10.32 billion euro) loss last year.