Judge Blasts RBS, OKs Highland Lawsuit

May 29 2012 | 1:18pm ET

The latest round in the courtroom battle between Highland Capital Management and the Royal Bank of Scotland has gone to the hedge fund.

A British judge has rejected the bank's request for an injunction against Highland's lawsuit, filed last year in Texas. The hedge fund brought the complaint after losing to RBS in December 2010, when the same British judge, Justice Michael Burton, awarded RBS €22 million to cover the value of loans in a collapsed collateralized debt obligation deal.

But even in handing RBS victory, Burton was scathing, accusing the bank of "deception" and of running a "sham" auction. Highland picked up on those themes in its US$100 million lawsuit in July, accusing RBS, trader San Griffiths and lawyer Stewart Hall of fraudulent inducement, fraud and unjust enrichment.

Burton gave the green light to that action, saying that "there has been up to and including this last hearing improper conduct by RBS through Mr. Griffiths, and that it was serious." The judge added, for good measure, that Griffiths had "unclean hands" that were "relevantly grimy."

Burton cited two conversations involving Griffiths, one in which he told a senior RBS salesman that the auction in question "has to look authentic but it is effectively a pricing exercise," and an e-mail in which he called the process "awesome."

"We are making the bank rich," he wrote. The bank and himself: Griffiths was paid £2.2 million in bonuses in 2009 and 2010.

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