Fury as City regulator’s ‘de-banking’ review finds ‘no evidence’ of politicians’ accounts being closed due to their views – but admits it didn’t even look at Nigel Farage’s allegations against Coutts

The City regulator sparked fury today after finding no evidence of banks denying politicians access to accounts due to their views.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) undertook a review amid the ‘de-banking’ scandal brought to prominence by Nigel Farage being ditched as a Coutts customer.

But their report, published today, said information supplied by banks suggested no firm closed an account ‘primarily because of a customer’s political views’.

An angry Mr Farage condemned the FCA’s work as a ‘complete and utter farce’ and a ‘whitewash’ and demanded ‘sackings’ at the regulator.

The ex-Ukip leader was joined in his fury by a string of senior Tories who said ‘serious questions’ needed to be asked about the regulator itself.

There was also bemusement after it emerged the FCA review did not look into Mr Farage’s case.

An angry Nigel Farage condemned the FCA’s work as a ‘complete and utter farce’ and a ‘whitewash’ and demanded ‘sackings’ at the regulator

The FCA said information supplied by banks suggested no firm closed an account 'primarily because of a customer's political views'

The FCA said information supplied by banks suggested no firm closed an account ‘primarily because of a customer’s political views’

The FCA admitted the information it sought from 34 firms was ‘supplied quickly’ and so included ‘some limitations’.

But, in its initial conclusions, the watchdog said there were four cases and an additional four complaints reported by firms with ‘expression of political or any other opinions’ as the reason for the account closure or complaint.

The FCA report added: ‘We followed up directly with firms on these cases and further information showed that the primary reason for action was not the “expression of political or any other opinions”.

‘For the majority of cases it was, in fact, customer behaviour (eg racist language directed at staff).

‘Consequently, the information we have received so far does not suggest that accounts have been closed because of the political beliefs or views lawfully expressed by account holders.’

Mr Farage, in a video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, said in response to the FCA’s findings: ‘It’s a complete and utter farce, it is a whitewash, it is a joke.

‘Now the ball is firmly back in the court of the Government… this isn’t good enough.

‘We need sackings of the board – if we need people putting in position who are not overtly political.

‘If we don’t have a proper regulator for our banking industry, what hope is there?’

He was joined in his anger by Conservative MP Danny Kruger, a former No10 adviser, who posted:  ‘So the regulator who presided over the political debanking scandal has failed to find evidence of it.

‘They simply asked banks if they were guilty without asking those who thought they might be victims to come forwards. We now need to ask serious questions about the FCA itself.’

Ex-Cabinet minister Lord Frost asked: ‘Is it surprising so many don’t trust our institutions?’

The FCA said it would not be commenting on any individual cases.

But it is understood Mr Farage’s case was not included as part of the FCA review because the ex-Ukip leader’s account has not yet been closed, despite his battle with Coutts.

The FCA review also only focused on actions taken over accounts between July 2022 and June this year, which just preceded Mr Farage’s public row over his account.

Sources pointed to the fact a separate investigation was being conducted into the attempted closure of Mr Farage’s account.

At the end of July, Coutts owner NatWest Group announced law firm Travers Smith would undertake a review into the decision to close Mr Farage’s accounts. 

The ‘de-banking’ scandal saw NatWest Group lose two senior staff. 

Dame Alison Rose quit as NatWest chief executive after admitting to being the source of a BBC story that incorrectly reported Mr Farage had seen his Coutts account closed due to a lack of wealth.

Coutts boss Peter Flavel became a second senior victim of the scandal as he stood down to take ‘ultimate responsibility’ for the row.

FCA boss Nikhil Rathi admitted the watchdog needed to ‘undertake further checks’ to be ‘doubly sure’ about the findings in its 84-page report.

He also suggested the Government could take action to ensure all Britons have a legal right to a bank account.

‘As we undertake that work, the time is also right for a debate on how we balance access to bank accounts with the threat of financial crime, as well as firms’ reasonable risk and commercial appetites,’ Mr Rathi said.

‘An important question for policy makers is whether all individuals, businesses and organisations should have the right to an account, as is the case in some other countries.’

Tory minister Andrew Griffith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘Free speech is a fundamental human right. No ifs, no buts – everyone must be able to express their lawful opinions without fear of losing the vital access to a bank account.

‘We have already acted to force banks to explain and delay any decision to close an account to protect freedom of expression – meaning customers will have a 90 day notice period and a clear explanation for any account closure. That will be backed up in legislation this year.

‘We note the initial report of the FCA. Clearly there is more to be done to validate the submissions by banks and to ensure that the FCA have thoroughly followed up de-banked customer perspectives.’