Farage debanking row: NatWest review finds no evidence of widespread political discrimination

Business

NatWest says an external review has found no evidence of political or other such discrimination in the closure of customer accounts at its Coutts arm, amid the Nigel Farage debanking row.

The bank, which commissioned the law firm Travers Smith to investigate the affair, said 84 customer account closures – including all relevant PEP (politically exposed person) cases over a two-year period from July – were examined.

They represented, the taxpayer-backed lender said, a total sample of around 10% of relevant account closures in the period.

“The report confirms that decision-making was consistent with relevant standards and otherwise appropriate and that there was no evidence of discrimination due to political views or affiliations, or any other protected characteristic,” the bank stated.

It added that there were several areas where Coutts’ policies and procedures regarding customer “exit decisions” had been identified and it would implement all recommendations.

They included guidance on how the bank communicates with customers regarding such decisions.

The update was issued several months after the first phase of the review found “a number of shortcomings” in the process of closing Mr Farage’s account at Coutts.

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The Travers Smith report said that while the decision was predominantly made on a commercial basis, as it was deemed loss-making for the bank, he had been poorly treated.

Shortcomings included how Coutts had communicated with the former UKIP and Brexit Party leader and how it treated his confidential information, the review found.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said potential “regulatory breaches and a number of areas for improvement” were identified.

These included NatWest’s processes on how it considers potential account closures and customer complaints as well as the effectiveness of governance mechanisms.

File photo dated 01/11/19 of Dame Alison Rose, who is set to receive a £2.4 million pay package, a month after she resigned in disgrace from NatWest. The company has said it will continue to review her planned pay and bonus payouts in relation to ongoing investigations into her actions surrounding a row over Nigel Farage's account. PA
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Dame Alison Rose quit the bank under pressure from the government over her handling of the Farage row.

Former chief executive Dame Alison Rose left the state-backed lender after she admitted making a “serious error of judgment” by speaking to a journalist about Farage’s banking at Coutts.

Mr Farage, who returned to the UK this week after a stint in Australia for TV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, has refused to accept the outcome of the review and alleged that the banking industry has effectively cancelled thousands of PEP and other customers deemed not to fit their respective culture.

A crackdown on laws in this area will include forcing UK lenders to consider UK-based PEPs as lower risk compared to those from overseas.

Mr Farage, who is rumoured to have earned £1.5m for his time in the jungle and is yet to comment on the latest findings of the review, is bringing a legal case against the bank and Dame Alison.

He says the findings of a subject access request suggested the closure was taken partly because his views did not align with the firm’s “values”.

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