Farage rounds on Coutts over account closure

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Coutts is facing a fresh controversy after Nigel Farage released parts of a memo which appear to show that the high-end bank dropped him as a customer primarily because of political, rather than financial, reasons.

The news, first reported by The Telegraph as well as on the former Brexit party leader’s Twitter page, comes as the government investigates whether lenders are blacklisting politically contentious customers.

According to a subject access request which Farage said he had obtained from Coutts, his political views, including controversies related to Russia and his support for former US president Donald Trump, were the core reasons for the bank’s decision to close his accounts.

Farage said on Twitter that he had seen “an explosive 40 page memo” in which Brexit was mentioned 86 times and Russia 144 times. The bank is said to have concluded that Farage’s views “do not align with our values”.

The leading Brexiter and now television presenter said it also made reference ten times to the fact he is a “politically exposed person” — someone in public life deemed to be at risk of being targeted for bribes.

Farage added: “Support for Trump + views on immigration, net zero & the vaccine are listed as reasons to exit me. They say my account is commercially viable!”

Farage first announced in June that an unnamed “prestigious” bank had shut his accounts. He confirming earlier this month it was Coutts, once known as the “Queen’s bank”.

Two people close to the situation had previously told the Financial Times that the institution had financial eligibility criteria that could explain an account closure. One of these people said Farage had redeemed his Coutts mortgage earlier, reducing his business with the bank below the threshold.

Coutts said that its ability to respond to the allegations was restricted by its obligations around client confidentiality.

“Decisions to close accounts are not taken lightly and take into account a number of factors, including commercial viability, reputational considerations, and legal and regulatory requirements,” it continued.

A person with knowledge of the matter said that it would be normal for a bank to review high-profile clients, and that the document had covered a long timeframe.

Earlier this month, chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that the government would take action over lenders “debanking” clients with controversial views.

City minister Andrew Griffith has been asked to investigate the practice of lenders closing down the accounts of individuals or companies whose views they disagree with. 

Regulators are also examining whether banks are being required to carry out over-onerous checks on politically exposed persons. Hunt recently told the FT that the online bank Monzo refused to let him open an account last year because he was a “PEP”.


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