NatWest (NWG.L), a British bank, said on Friday that while there was evidence of potential regulatory rule violations in the second phase of its investigation into account closures by its private bank Coutts, there was no proof of political discrimination.
This year, NatWest faced a dilemma following a sour dispute with former head of the Brexit party Nigel Farage on the latter’s choice to shut his bank accounts with Coutts.
The incident provoked a political backlash that finally resulted in the resignation of Peter Flavel, Coutts’s previous employer, and Alison Rose, the bank’s CEO.
NatWest said on Friday that the assessment found a number of areas, including the bank’s customer communications, where Coutts’ “exit decisions” might be improved.
Additionally, several possible infractions of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) regulations pertaining to treating customers fairly as well as possible contract violations for omitting to disclose exits were found.
“Different From The Purpose”
When Farage discovered in July that he was being sacked in part due to an internal committee’s decision that his opinions did not coincide with the lender’s, his treatment by Coutts came to light.
Nevertheless, Travers Smith’s initial examination concluded that the bank had behaved legitimately and primarily for economic purposes.
The second portion of the review found no evidence of political discrimination; however, it did find two cases where the customer’s political opinions were “inconsistent” with the bank’s business “purpose” and where this was “the predominant reason” for closing the account.
The evaluation did note that neither featured political opinions and that they were not thought to violate any standards. The Chief Executive of Coutts, Mohammad Syed, said, “We apologise to our customers whose experience fell short of what they should have expected.” The bank is dedicated to putting all of the report’s recommendations into practice.
In a statement released on Friday, Farage claimed that the audit had exposed major flaws in NatWest’s procedure for closing bank accounts. “The NatWest group now need to take a cold, hard look at their own procedures,” he stated.