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Last RBS investor group held settlement talks over 2008 cash call source...


´╗┐Lawyers representing tens of thousands of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS. L) shareholders have held tentative talks to settle a 1.2 billion pound ($1.5 billion) damages claim over the lender's 2008 rights issue that was launched shortly before a state bailout, two sources said. The two sources, who are familiar with the situation, said RBS and the RBoS Shareholder Action group, which includes 27,000 private investors, former and current RBS staff and about 100 institutions, had discussed an out-of-court deal. But in a move highlighting the difficulties of rallying such a vast group -- the last of five shareholder claims yet to settle with the bank -- one source warned that some retail investors were determined to take the case to trial in May. A settlement would end one of the most complex and costly litigation battles in English legal history. It would also spare RBS, which is still more than 70 percent owned by the state, a lengthy and potentially embarrassing court case that would put its disgraced former chief executive Fred Goodwin and other former senior staff in the witness box. RBS last year struck an out-of-court deal with four other investor groups, who also accused the bank of omissions and misrepresentations about its financial strength when it launched the 12 billion pound rights issue at the height of the credit crisis. But the RBoS Shareholder Action Group rejected its share of RBS's 800 million pound offer.

RBS, which has said it would welcome a deal with the action group, declined to comment on any talks. When asked by Reuters at the end of February, Chief Executive Ross McEwan there had been "some conversations" but no resolution. RBoS Shareholder Action Group declined to comment, while Signature Litigation, the legal firm representing the claimants, referred requests to the action group. QUESTIONS ASKED The bank has been applying pressure on the shareholder group, which has been questioned persistently about the adequacy of its funding, switched legal teams three times and saw some institutions break away in 2015 to launch separate litigation.

In a move described as bullying by claimants, the group was forced to reveal the names of its latest third-party litigation funders after RBS asked for details of its After The Event (ATE) insurance while threatening to file an application for security for costs. ATE insurance policies cover the risk of losing and paying the other side's costs in litigation. Last week, High Court Judge Robert Hildyard also warned claimants against the "serious consequences" of a funding gap or shortfall. He was also "increasingly troubled" by inconsistent statements about ATE cover and other statements by the group.

The action group has told the court that its current third-party litigation funders include asset recovery and private equity firm Hunnewell Partners (BVI), which says on its website it has a separate and ring-fenced litigation funding business. Hunnewell, which did not respond to requests for comment, is not listed as a member of the Association of Litigation Funders, an independent body that ensures members abide by a code of conduct and maintains a complaints handling procedure. RBS has estimated its legal costs, from the December settlements to the end of the May trial, at 25 million pounds. Shareholders lost around 80 percent of their investments when RBS collapsed just months after the 2008 cash call, forcing the government to step in with a 45 billion pound-plus bailout. Former RBS chief executive Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood but kept an annual pension of 342,500 pounds. ($1 = 0.8160 pounds)

Your Money Put your travel bucket list on turbo


´╗┐Waiting until you are retired to travel to all your bucket list destinations? You might want to step on it. With ice sheets melting, the Great Barrier Reef dying off and animals being poached to extinction on African savannas, delaying your dream trips could be very costly. That is what helped spur Valerie Jalufka into action. "My advice is to get out there and see it, because the world is changing every year," says Jalufka, a Houston IT consultant who at age 39 has already hit every continent on the planet. Her most recent voyage: Australia and New Zealand, where she spent three weeks bungee-jumping with Kiwis and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. She has also gone on safari in Tanzania, and visited everywhere from Tasmania to Tierra del Fuego, often with the tour operator Abercrombie & Kent. Jalufka is part of a wave of youthful adventurers who are taking travel professionals by surprise by taking their once-in-a-lifetime trips in their 30s and 40s. Their motivation is twofold: An "experiences over stuff" mentality that is defining younger generations, and a "get there before it's gone" reality of a planet in the throes of climate change, making travel dreams more pressing than ever.

Of course, bucket lists themselves are not new: About 54 percent of travelers say they have traveled to cross something off their bucket list, and more than three-quarters of agencies say bucket list travel will be "hot" or "very hot" in 2017. But in 2016, a report for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection expected about a third of American travelers to Asia to be in their late 50s and early 60s. Nope - turns out it was travelers in their 30s and 40s who headed there in droves."Younger travelers are thinking in terms of a bucket list, in much higher numbers than expected. It is kind of mind-blowing," says Kit Kiefer, who authored the whitepaper for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. WHERE TO GO

Among the locations being checked off by American travelers: Australia, with a 6.2 percent increase expected for 2017, and Antarctica, which had a 10 percent boost from Americans in 2016. Perennial favorites like the pyramids in Egypt and African safaris are also luring bucket-listers abroad. The irony is that the spiking popularity of bucket-list travel could endanger the locations themselves. But the real threats are on the more macro level of climate change: Melting ice caps are due to rising global temperatures and CO2 emissions, not because of more tourist vessels to Antarctica. Coral at the Great Barrier Reef is dying off because of ocean acidification, not primarily because of more snorkelers and the boats that bring them. Tour providers are sniffing opportunity and are ramping up their offerings. High-end vacation membership organization Exclusive Resorts has 18 "Once-in-a-Lifetime" journeys, including diving with whale sharks off the Yucatan Peninsula and ice-trekking in Patagonia.

You do not have to go totally broke to have unique experiences. Some of the biggest year-over-year increases in travel have to been to places that have added more air routes or been aggressive in appealing to tourists with low-cost deals. These are places like Reykjavik, in Iceland, and Dubai in the U. A. E., or Portugal's Lisbon, says Keith Nowak, communications director at booking website Travelocity.com. Being specific from the outset will help keep costs down. "Instead of saying 'I want to go to South America,' "say 'I want to take a cycling tour through the Andes next spring,'" suggests Rebecca Warren, managing editor for the magazine of Lonely Planet, the popular guidebook publisher. Valerie Jalufka deals with known expenses by planning well in advance - after all, bucket-list trips are not usually planned last-minute - and directing money into dedicated accounts every month. Jalufka is far from finished with her bucket list. Next up: Hanging out with polar bears in Canada's Arctic. "I want to see them while they are still in their natural habitat," she says. "Because I think that is going to change in my lifetime."(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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