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A review by the UK’s top financial regulator has uncovered no evidence that politicians are being denied bank accounts because of their views, according to people briefed on the findings.
The Financial Conduct Authority thrown out investigation in August, weeks after former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage sparked a debate over free speech by claiming his accounts at private bank Coutts were about to be closed because his points in view “they did not coincide” with those of the lender.
The dispute over Farage’s “debanking” sparked complaints from other politicians about their treatment by lenders, prompting the government to order a review by the FCA.
People familiar with the situation said the FCA would publish findings in the coming days that would show there were no cases where political views were the “main” reason for the closure of personal accounts at the 34 banks and payments companies it targeted. they were asked to send data to the regulator. The FCA declined to comment.
The data examined by the FCA covers the period from June 2022 to June 2023.
Farage made public that his bank accounts were about to be closed by an unnamed “prestigious” financial institution in late June, later confirming it was Coutts.
But his accounts with Coutts were still active at the end of July, when he said the bank had Offered to let him stay.
The FCA is aware that the data used in its review was collected quickly and that not all banks have good systems for monitoring and recording why accounts are closed or rejected, two people briefed on its work said.
They added that the regulator would work harder to ensure that banks and payments companies are not unfairly denying access to services.
There was some concern in Whitehall that the FCA had failed to find data showing that the “unbanking” of people for their political opinions was widespread.
One government insider said “regulators have been quite slow on this issue”, adding that the data collected by the FCA “may lack granularity”.
In July Farage published extracts from a dossier compiled by Coutts about him, as he deliberated on closing his accounts, in which the bank said that continuing to serve him would not be “compatible with Coutts” as his views were “at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation”.
The line led to departure from Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest, Coutts’ parent company, after she admitted sharing confidential information about her accounts with a journalist.
Politicians from all parties, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have condemned the apparent practice of banks closing people’s accounts because of their political views.
“People need to be able to have legitimate views that we may not agree with, but they should not be denied financial services because of it,” Sunak said last month.
The FCA is separately reviewing financial services firms’ treatment of so-called politically exposed persons, a group that includes politicians and public officials. The work should be completed next year.