Ian Fraser’s Shredded: Inside RBS, The Bank That Broke Britain has been named as a Book of the Year by the Financial Times, Bloomberg, The Week and Huffington Post and one of best books of the decade by the Financial Times.
Shredded has also been described as the “definitive account” of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s collapse, one of the five best books on the global financial crisis, “a model of the journalist’s craft”, and “hard to put down at any point”.
Financial Times chief economics commentator Martin Wolf named it as one of his best books of 2014 and it was longlisted for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year.
The book was first published in hardback and e-book by Birlinn in June 2014. A fully revised and updated paperback and e-book edition was published by Birlinn in October 2015.
“RBS, briefly the biggest bank in the world, was a rogue bank. In this gripping account, Fraser explains how this was allowed to happen. Evidently, the management – above all chief executive Fred Goodwin – bears immediate responsibility for the grotesque hubris and incompetence displayed but so, too, do the regulators and politicians. RBS was a rogue business, operating in what had become a rogue industry, with the connivance of government. Read it and weep”—Martin Wolf, Financial Times
“Magnificent… one of the best investigative books of the past decade… I cannot praise Ian Fraser and this work highly enough!”—Eamonn O’Neill, BBC Radio Scotland
“If you want the inside story on how RBS got to the state it is in today, read Ian Fraser’s brilliant Shredded“—Ian Smith, Investors Chronicle
“Shredded is a monumental book, well-written, impeccably researched and hard to put down at any point. The author… pulls no punches”—Philip Augar, Financial Times
“We meet shocking recklessness in Shredded… The extent of greed and broken governance is fascinating and highly disturbing. The book raises critical questions about how and why RBS practices persisted and whether much if anything has changed to prevent such institutions from harming society”—Professor Anat Admati, Bloomberg
“Shredded is compulsory reading for everybody interested in finding out important truths about the political and financial worlds we live in… to learn about these links [between politics and finance], the arrogance and impudence of the people involved in an explicit, straightforward, illuminating, and often humorous way is a wonderful experience for the reader and proof of the author’s exceptional achievement. This is simply a masterpiece”—Prof Klaus Peter Müller, Scottish Studies
“There’s a moral force that… makes the reader want to turn the page. He is scrupulously fair to the characters he puts before us… Fraser understands and can sympathise with human beings caught up in the events that overwhelm them. Yet in a final chapter, drawing up a balance-sheet of blame, he is unsparing in his judgments. This remains an extremely clear-sighted book: a great achievement”—Michael Fry, Scottish Review of Books
“Of two excellent recent books about the implosion of RBS, Ian Fraser’s Shredded is the darker, deeper and ultimately more satisfying version. It is given added weight by the author’s evident, and justified, anger at the way in which one bank brought the British financial system to the brink of catastrophe”—Andrew Hill, Financial Times
“Shredded is a definitive and unflinching account of exactly what went wrong – and few are spared… [The book] is a monument of painstaking analysis and research to Scotland’s greatest financial failure since Darien. As such it serves as a model of the journalist’s craft, Zola-esque in its broad and unsparing study of corporate hubris and nemesis and haunting in the questions it leaves in its wake”—Bill Jamieson, The Scotsman
“The definitive account of the Royal Bank of Scotland fiasco… an engaging tale of how self-serving bank executives systematically broke the rules, lent with astonishing recklessness, abused customers and got suckered by Wall Street — before dumping their mess on the taxpayers”—Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
“Magisterial… the most detailed catalogue to date of the errors and misdemeanours leading up to RBS’s 2008 collapse and the failure—in Fraser’s view—to reform the bank in its aftermath”—Colin Donald, The Herald
“Shredded is an exhaustive, no-holds-barred account of a seismic implosion by a writer with a forensic understanding of his subject”—Tom Mooney, The Echo
“Explosive”—Tom Harper, Independent on Sunday
“An epic on an Edward Gibbon scale”—Prof. Christopher Harvie, University of Tübingen
“I don’t think I have ever read such a perfect morality tale for our times”—Iona Bain, FT Adviser
“The definitive text. I’m thinking of Barbarians at the Gate . An instant classic”—Max Keiser, The Keiser Report
“Not just the definitive book on the collapse of RBS but one of the best five books on the great financial collapse which changed the history of the 21st century. Ian pulls no punches in his conclusions”—Russell Napier, market historian & investment strategist
“You should absolutely read Ian Fraser’s Shredded. It is probably the definitive work on the British and Irish banks in the Great Bubble and the ensuing Great Financial Crisis”—Alexander Harrowell, The Yorkshire Ranter
“Engrossing, fascinating and appalling… a fast-paced and sickeningly-depressing exposition of what can go wrong when corporate governance fails”—Ruth Bender, Cranfield University
“My book of the year … It is very readable, a magnum opus of research and perspective”—Douglas Mill, The Firm Magazine
“We need more journalists of Fraser’s calibre, who are able to delve into the often arcane world of high finance and to take a strong, independent viewpoint. We may never see the perp walk that the British public richly deserves but, by keeping vigil, we might avoid sleepwalking into another financial crisis”—Robert Alstead, The Edinburgh Guide
“This book should be posted through the letterbox of every taxpayer in Britain”—David Mellor, LBC
“A genuine page-turner”—Alex Marsh, Pieria
“The best financial book I’ve ever read. Thank you, Ian, for a public service”—Simon Bain, The Herald
“Ian Fraser’s Shredded should be required reading for every civil servant at H.M. Treasury, for every apparatchik in the FCA, and for every politician whose brief engages with the City… It throws down a heavy gauntlet to the financial establishment and challenges them to pick it up and answer the charges it contains”—Rowan Bosworth-Davies
“The best single company book I have read — not just post-crisis, but at any time. Better written and better sourced [than Iain Martin’s Making it Happen], Shredded achieves a much better understanding of what went wrong”—Simon Samuels, former managing director, Barclays
“Nearly six years after the bailout, Shredded reminds us how much of banking reform is still a work in progress”—Nick Dunbar, NickDunbar.net
Note: You can read most of these reviews in full by clicking on the name and publication of the reviewer.
In Shredded: Inside RBS The Bank That Broke Britain, Ian Fraser explores how, under Fred Goodwin—a former partner in global accountancy firm Deloitte and Touche LLP— the Royal Bank of Scotland became a rogue institution, with few qualms about “mis-selling” financial products, a cavalier disregard for the law and the truth, and a warped idea of its own financial skills and strength.
The bank’s collapse, triggered by the September 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, was largely the consequence of its pursuit of scale for its own sake. This was epitomised by reckless bubble-era lending to frothy sectors including commercial property, its naive faith in subprime derivatives even after these were rejected by savvier Wall Street firms, and its ill-conceived €71.1bn takeover of the worthless Dutch bank ABN Amro.
Shredded outlines how, by terrorising subordinates, ingratiating himself to his superiors, gaming financial regulations and misleading politicians, Goodwin created a poisonous cocktail that ensured the bank could blow up at any time.
But the book makes clear it wasn’t all Goodwin’s fault. City institutional investors and analysts gave Goodwin—who was surfing a tide of hyperbole after his March 2000 takeover of NatWest—carte blanche in the early years of his reign and green-lighted catastrophic moves including the ABN Amro takeover. When it came to ensuring the bank was responsibly managed, RBS’s chairmen and non-executive directors turned out to be largely useless. Its auditors, Deloitte, added to the bank’s precariousness with their reluctance to challenge deceptive accounting. Deluded politicians, notably the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, regulators and central bankers are also hugely culpable, partly thanks to their faith in the competence and integrity of RBS’s management and determination to embark on an Alan Greenspan-inspired regulatory race-to-the-bottom.
The final chapters of Shredded detail the successive post-crisis failures of the governments of prime ministers Brown and David Cameron to reform either RBS or the wider banking sector. The bank’s often mendacious approach to litigation, its penchant for rigging sectors of the financial markets, and its alleged wilful destruction of tens of thousands of UK small and medium-sized business borrowers in order to bolster its own balance sheet are symptomatic of this. The book concludes that the UK’s lacklustre attempts at addressing such issues have left RBS, the British banking system and the wider economy vulnerable to further collapses.
Based on one-to-one interviews with some 120 current and former employees of RBS and related companies, Shredded covers the period from RBS’s incorporation in 1727 to the present day. But its main focus is the 22 years since 1992—when Goodwin’s predecessor Sir George Mathewson instituted an ultimately misguided revolution that was intended to save the bank from an earlier near-collapse.
- Sunday Herald article: Ian Fraser on 13 things he discovered ‘on the trail of Fred the Shred‘—published 8 June 2014.
- Ian Fraser interviewed by Max Keiser, of the Keiser Report, recorded Monday, 2 June 2014 and broadcast two days later.
Shredded: Inside RBS, The Bank That Broke Britain can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk, Birlinn, Waterstones, The Guardian and numerous other websites. It can also be purchased in most leading bookshops. It is currently available in hardback, paperback, Kindle and e-book.