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Natwest admits ‘serious failings’ in Farage case

by: Emma Lunn
  • 27/10/2023
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Natwest admits ‘serious failings’ in Farage case
But an investigation by the bank found “the exit decision was lawful” regarding the closure of the former UKIP leader’s account with Coutts, part of the Natwest Group.

An independent review of the saga commissioned by Natwest found the lender had acted “in accordance with the relevant bank policies and processes” when it decided to shut Farage’s accounts.

However, the report also identified “a number of shortcomings”, related to how it reached that decision, how the bank communicated with Farage, and how it treated his confidential information.

Natwest has published the key findings and recommendations from Phase I of the Travers Smith independent review covering the decision to close Farage’s Coutts accounts and the circumstances surrounding a potential breach of confidentiality relating to his customer information.

Natwest said it has accepted – and will implement – all of the recommendations made by Travers Smith. Alongside the report, the bank will make a number of other changes to its policies and procedures designed to deliver better outcomes for its customers.

Natwest: ‘Failure in communication’

Sir Howard Davies, Natwest Group chairman, said: “This report sets out a number of serious failings in the treatment of Mr Farage. Although Travers Smith confirm the lawful basis for the exit decision, the findings set out clear shortcomings in how it was reached as well as failures in how we communicated with him and in relation to client confidentiality. We apologise once again to Mr Farage for how he has been treated. His experience fell short of the standards that any customer should expect.

“Our job now is to make sure that does not happen again. The bank is committed to implementing all the recommendations made by Travers Smith and we are making substantive changes to our policies and procedures, in particular to ensure that the lawfully protected beliefs or opinions of customers do not play any role in our decision making.

“The board is considering the findings and deciding on the appropriate outcomes on other matters. It is important we have regard to all necessary processes and due consideration of issues including the bank’s obligations around privacy and confidentiality.”

FCA: Potential regulatory breaches

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it had reviewed the Travers Smith report and found it “highlighted potential regulatory breaches and a number of areas for improvement”.

These include the bank’s processes, systems and controls around how it considers potential closure of accounts and handle complaints from their customers; and the allocation of responsibilities and effectiveness of the firms’ governance mechanisms.

Earlier this week, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that Alison Rose breached data rules over revelation of Nigel Farage bank details. However, no further action will be taken by the watchdog as Rose has already stepped down from her role at the bank.

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