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Farage moves accounts to Lloyds after Coutts ‘debanking’ scandal

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Nigel Farage has opened several accounts at Lloyds Banking Group after he became embroiled in a “debanking” row with NatWest that cost the chief executive of the state-backed lender her job.

Coutts, the elite private bank owned by NatWest, jettisoned Farage, a former leader of the UK Independence and Brexit parties, as a client in part because of his politics.

“I am grateful to Lloyds Bank and it is good to see at least one high street lender is not politically prejudiced,” Farage told the Financial Times on Friday. “I urge everyone to open another bank account because it could be you next.”

In July, Farage obtained internal documents from Coutts that showed its reputational risk committee had accused him of “pandering to racists” and being a “disingenuous grifter”. It concluded that his politics were “at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation” and notified him of the intention to close his accounts.

Separately, NatWest chief Dame Alison Rose admitted she had misled a BBC reporter into believing that Coutts took the decision solely for commercial reasons, leading to an inaccurate article. Despite the board’s support, Rose resigned after coming under pressure from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt, chancellor. Coutts boss Peter Flavel also stepped down.

Sky News first reported about Farage’s decision to move to Lloyds and said its executives had approved him being taken on. Lloyds declined to comment on any individual customer. NatWest declined to comment.

The debanking scandal prompted probes into the treatment of so-called politically exposed persons by the financial sector, as well as the opaque processes for closing an account. Banks have since agreed to triple the notice period given to customers to 90 days and provide clearer explanations why the decision was taken.

However, a review by the Financial Conduct Authority found no evidence that politicians are being denied bank accounts primarily because of their views.

Farage also made a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the alleged disclosure of his personal information. Rose said she never divulged anything confidential and later offered to keep his Coutts account open in an attempt to pacify the ex-politician and GB News host.

Law firm Travers Smith has provided NatWest’s board with a report into the incident — after a short delay — examining whether Coutts handled the closure of Farage’s account correctly, as well as whether the lender leaked confidential information about him.

While the board has committed to publishing the findings and recommendations of the review, the FT has reported that this is likely to be heavily redacted.

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