(London Telegraph) PIRC, the shareholder advisory group, has analysed the 2011 accounts of the UK's top five banks to calculate how much they expect to write off as bad debt in the coming years but have yet to take against profits.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was in the worst condition, PIRC found, with £18bn of undeclared losses that would wipe out more than a third of its capital buffer and potentially force the 82pc state-owned lender back to the taxpayer for another rescue.
HSBC had ($16bn) £10bn in undeclared losses, Barclays £6.7bn, Standard Chartered $3.6bn (£2.3bn) and Lloyds Banking Group £2.9bn. PIRC presented its numbers to all the banks and said none disputed them.
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Profits at Britain's lenders have been flattered by controversial international accounting standards introduced in 2005 that prevent companies from provisioning against potential losses. The rules have been attacked by the House of Lords, among others, as deeply flawed.