File photo of Royal Bank of Scotland Chief Executive Goodwin leaving the Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Disgraced former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) boss Fred Goodwin will be a key defendant as the bank's shareholders begin a £700m compensation case REUTERS

A court case brought by thousands of RBS shareholders who claim they were misled ahead of its taxpayer bailout has been dramatically for adjourned for 24 hours.

The trial at London's High Court was temporarily halted this morning (22 May) as the 14-week hearing was set to begin, after RBS almost doubled its offer to settle the case.

The moves comes as disgraced former RBS boss Fred Goodwin and a raft of former executives are set appear as part of a £700m lawsuit brought against the lender by 9,000 retail investors and 18 institutions in The RBS Shareholder Action Group.

The former chief executive Goodwin – who was stripped of his knighthood following the bank's near collapse – will answer questions over the events leading up to the government's £45.5bn bailout in 2008.

RBS shareholders allege that the bank's management duped them into taking part in a calamitous £12bn fundraising in April 2008, just months before the government saved the bank and wiped 90% off the value of its shares.

The state-backed bank is offering shareholders 82p a share, almost double the 43.2p share it had previously tabled, following talks over the weekend, according to the Financial Times. However, investors are understood to want 100p a share.

Hopeful discussions

The bank's current chief executive Ross McEwan was personally involved in the settlement talks to avert a high-profile trial that would undoubtedly further damage the bank's reputation.

But Mr Justice Hildyard delayed court proceedings at the request of both parties.

Jonathan Nash QC, for RBS shareholders said: "The parties are currently involved in settlement discussions and are hopeful of making progress."

Last month current RBS' McEwan agreed to pay three shareholder groups £800m to settle the claims, but thousands of other claimants have held out for a court battle.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said in April the government was prepared to sell its stake in the bank at a loss. The bank is currently 72% owned by the taxpayer.

RBS reported a £7bn annual loss for 2016 in February, its ninth year of losses in a row.

The bank is also yet to settle with the US Department of Justice over claims it mis-sold toxic residential mortgage-backed securities.