The former chief executive of NatWest breached former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s privacy rights by talking to a journalist about his relationship with Coutts bank, Britain’s information watchdog has ruled.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the disclosure had been ‘unacceptable’, but that it had decided no further regulatory action after Dame Alison Rose resigned over the matter.
The former CEO had admitted a ‘serious error of judgment’ by discussing with a BBC journalist Mr Farage’s relationship with Coutts, which is owned by NatWest Group.
The ruling comes at a sensitive time for NatWest, which is due to announce quarterly results on Friday.
It followed calls for staff members to be suspended after they joked about wanting to ‘throw a milkshake’ at him.
Angry: Nigel Farage calls for inquiry over debanking row with Coutts bank
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the disclosure had been ‘unacceptable’, but that it had decided no further regulatory action after Dame Alison Rose (pictured) resigned over the matter
A bombshell document revealed how staff also said they would ‘pay’ to be the person who told him he was not welcome to use the firm.
The conversations came to light after Mr Farage submitted a subject access request to NatWest for all the information the bank holds on him.
In a statement on Wednesday, an ICO spokesperson said: ‘Following a thorough review of the complaint raised with us, we have concluded our investigation.
‘We upheld two parts of the complaint – namely, we found that an individual employed by Natwest shared information when they should not have done, and that by doing so they infringed the complainant’s data protection rights.
‘We have been clear with the bank that these actions were unacceptable and should not happen again. However, in view of the fact the individual in question resigned her post and the bank has commissioned its own investigation, we do not intend to take any further regulatory action at this time.’
Former UKIP and Brexit Party leader Mr Farage told the Financial Times, which first reported on the ruling: ‘The ICO report confirms that Dame Alison Rose was in breach of data rules, of the FCA rule book and oversaw a culture of deep political prejudice at NatWest.’
A NatWest spokesperson said: ‘We fully co-operate with the ICO in its assessment of any customer complaint, but it would not be appropriate for us to comment on this individual case.’
The ruling followed the bombshell conversations revealed by GB News, in which a bank staffer said: ‘I’d throw a milkshake at him if I was approached to open an account for him [sic].’
Another referred to a BBC article about Mr Farage having his bank account closed and said: ‘Hope that knocked him down a peg or 2 [sic].’ Another, which appears to be part of a WhatsApp group, said: ‘Have you all seen Nigel Farage’s twitter? No one will bank him now. Have we single handedly drive NF out of the country?![sic]’
And one staff member suggested Mr Farage had ‘dodgy Russian connections’, which he has vehemently denied. He was also described as ‘sketchy’ and workers referred to him as a ‘crackpot’ and an ‘awful human being’. Mr Farage claims he was turned down by ten other banks for an account amid the scandal.
The former Ukip and Brexit Party leader was dropped in June by Coutts, a private bank owned by NatWest, over his views
Mr Farage lost his account at Coutts, whose clients include members of the Royal Family, after an internal report said his views did not align with the bank’s values and he was ‘transphobic’.
The row led to the resignation of NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose after she falsely told a journalist Mr Farage’s views had not been a factor in the loss of his account.
This week the board of the bank, which is 38.6 per cent owned by the taxpayer, will meet to discuss her exit package. But this week Mr Farage told the Mail that it was the ‘woke’ culture under Dame Alison’s leadership which contributed to the ‘vile’ comments by staff.
He called for her to be stripped of any bonuses, adding: ‘This is NatWest head office, this isn’t just a local branch. These were the people working directly under Dame Alison Rose.
‘I think that people working within an organisation that is heavily state-owned, should just not be behaving in this highly politicised, prejudicial manner.
‘And yes, I think there should be staff suspensions and there must be another inquiry about how on earth people at NatWest are allowed to behave like this.
‘I can’t imagine people anywhere else being allowed to talk about their customers in this way. After the Coutts stuff it was difficult to believe that anything could be worse, but this is.’
Mr Farage has since switched to Lloyds Bank.
A NatWest Group spokesman said: ‘We have written to Mr Farage to apologise sincerely for the deeply inappropriate comments and the poor behaviours. Neither are consistent with the standards of service our clients should expect.’
He added an independent review has been commissioned into recent events and the findings will be published as soon as possible.