The ex-CEO of NatWest violated data privacy regulations by discussing the intended closure of Nigel Farage’s bank accounts with a BBC reporter, as determined by the UK’s information authority.
According to a report from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) obtained by the Guardian, Alison Rose violated two rules. Firstly, by disclosing that Farage had a banking connection with Coutts, the private bank of Coutts; and secondly, by giving the BBC false information that resulted in them believing that the bank was closing his accounts for financial reasons related to his riches.
The ICO report stated that Mr. Farage’s rights were violated due to this.
In July, Farage obtained documents that revealed Coutts had acknowledged his accounts falling below their multimillion-pound thresholds. However, the bank ultimately closed his accounts due to concerns about his political beliefs not aligning with theirs. According to the documents, Coutts saw Farage’s purported views as “xenophobic, chauvinistic, and racist,” which could damage the bank’s reputation.
The ICO stated that they have no intentions of taking additional action, as NatWest (who is 38.5% owned by taxpayers) has already initiated an investigation into the event and Rose has resigned due to the controversy.
In July, Rose acknowledged speaking about the issue with a BBC journalist, which was believed to have violated client confidentiality. This caused concern within the government and ultimately resulted in her resignation.
The ICO representative stated that after carefully examining the complaint brought to our attention, we have completed our inquiry. We agreed with two aspects of the complaint – specifically, we discovered that a NatWest employee shared information in violation of their duty and in turn, violated the complainant’s rights to data protection.
“We have made it known to the bank that these behaviors were not acceptable and should not be repeated in the future.”
The Financial Times was the first to report on the ICO’s decision, which was made in response to complaints filed by Farage earlier this year. This ruling comes just before NatWest’s investigation is set to end in October.
The ongoing inquiry, led by the legal company Travers Smith, may lead to Rose facing a significant financial loss. NatWest stated last month that she will probably receive a sum of £2.4 million during her 12-month notice period.
Farage stated that the ICO’s report verifies that Dame Alison Rose violated data regulations and the FCA rulebook, and was responsible for a culture of strong political bias within the NatWest Group. He believes she should not be given any reward for her shortcomings.
The Guardian was informed by a representative of Farage that the ex-leader of Ukip is considering legal action.
When NatWest reports its third-quarter earnings on Friday morning, there may be scrutiny on the ICO decision from executives such as Howard Davies, who is stepping down as chair.
A representative from NatWest stated: “We are working closely with the ICO to investigate any customer complaints, however, it would be inappropriate for us to provide a statement regarding this specific case.”
The Guardian was unable to promptly contact Rose for a response.