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Fred Goodwin smiles as he leaves the Edinburgh International Conference Centre after the bank's annual general meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland in this April 23, 2008 file photo.
Credit: Reuters/David Moir/Files
Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:15pm EST
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain took the rare step of stripping former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Fred Goodwin of his knighthood, following intense criticism of his role in RBS' near-collapse during the 2008 credit crisis, and public anger towards wealthy bankers.
"The failure of RBS played an important role in the financial crisis of 2008-9 which, together with other macroeconomic factors, triggered the worst recession in the UK since the Second World War and imposed significant direct costs on British taxpayers and businesses," the government said in a statement.
"Fred Goodwin was the dominant decision maker at RBS at the time," it added, explaining a decision taken by a committee of civil servants.
Goodwin had been awarded the knighthood in 2004 for services to banking, but has since come under heavy criticism from the public after taxpayer funds were used to bail out the stricken bank.
The government said it would soon be announced that Goodwin's knighthood had been "cancelled and annulled."
The Scottish banker spearheaded RBS' disastrous acquisition of Dutch bank ABN AMRO, which nearly caused the collapse of RBS during the 2008 crisis.
RBS ended up having to be propped up with 45 billion pounds ($71 billion) of taxpayers' money, with the government finishing up with an 83 percent stake in the bank.
It is very rare for Britain to remove people of their knighthoods, and Goodwin joins the ranks of figures such as former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu who forfeited an honorary knighthood.
The woes of RBS have come to symbolize for many in Britain more serious problems with the country's banking industry.
Many are still angry at the fact that bankers are continuing to get paid millions while elsewhere thousands lose their jobs as the economy weakens.
On Sunday, the current chief executive of RBS - Stephen Hester - was forced to decline a million pound share bonus after the award had been attacked by all major British political parties.
($1 = 0.6337 British pounds)
(Reporting by Matt Falloon, Mohammed Abbas and Sudip Kar-Gupta)
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