The former boss of UK lender NatWest breached arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage’s privacy rights by sharing information about his banking activities, the country’s privacy watchdog concluded.
Dame Alison Rose was forced to resign in July after admitting she had made an error when speaking to a BBC journalist about Farage’s banking.
That episode became world news after his account was abruptly closed because his views did not align with NatWest’s values.
Initially, the bank had misinformed BBC journalist Simon Jack that Farage did not meet the financial requirements for holding an account at NatWest.
This was spread in the media by Jack via the BBC News channel.
Dame Alison was forced to admit she was the source of that information and resigned just hours later.
The BBC had to apologise and said its reporting was “incomplete”.
The NatWest CEO quit after confessing to a “serious error of judgment” in discussing Farage’s relationship with Coutts, the lender that is owned by NatWest Group, with a BBC journalist.
She stated that she did not divulge any personal financial information but that she was “wrong to respond to any question about this case raised by the BBC”.
Now the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has spoken about the case after Farage filed a complaint with it in July about the matter.
“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,” the ICO said.
“We have been clear with the bank that these actions were unacceptable and should not happen again,” it said. It added that since Dame Alison resigned from her post and the bank had commissioned its own investigation, it would not take any further regulatory action at this time.
Farage told the Financial Times: “The ICO report confirms that Dame Alison Rose was in breach of data rules of the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] rule book and oversaw a culture of deep political prejudice at NatWest.”
A NatWest spokesperson said the bank was fully co-operating with the ICO but declined to comment further on this specific case.
The lender’s financial results are due to be released on October 27.
The bank is discussing cancelling bonuses and share awards meant for Dame Alison, although she could still claim millions of pounds based on her contract.
Farage has called for NatWest to cut her severance pay. He said Dame Alison had “dragged its name through the mud” and introduced a “woke agenda” at the bank.
“To reward these failings with a massive sum of money would be wrong. It is clear that, to some NatWest group staff, my debanking was a great big joke,” he said.
On October 25, Farage published more internal bank correspondence regarding him and to many it paints a damning picture of what was going on. Some staff apparently even advocated using violence against him by suggesting kicking him out of a moving car.
Others gloated about Farage being unable to bank after he was removed from NatWest. “We have driven him out of the country,” one allegedly said.