ICO rules former NatWest CEO breached data protection laws

27/10/2023 | Financial Times

Former NatWest CEO Alison Rose has been found to have breached data protection laws when she spoke to a journalist about the closure of Nigel Farage's bank account, the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said. In a ruling seen by the Financial Times (£), the ICO concluded that Rose inappropriately and inaccurately shared Farage's personal data.

In a statement, the ICO said, "We have been clear with the bank that these actions were unacceptable and should not happen again... However, in view of the fact the individual in question resigned her post and the bank has commissioned its own investigation, we do not intend to take any further regulatory action at this time."

The board of directors at NatWest are yet to confirm whether Rose should receive £2.4 million of pay owed to her under her 12-month notice period, along with any additional bonuses. 

Meanwhile, The Telegrapp (£) revealed how NatWest staff bragged about closing Nigel Farage's bank accounts. One staff member said that they had "single-handedly driven him out of the country" and that they "hope that knocked him down a peg or 2." The article claims staff also said Farage had "dodgy Russian connections," was "sketchy", another said he was a "crackpot" and an "awful human being", while another said, "the money I'd have paid to have been the agent ringing him to tell him [that he had been debanked]."

Commenting on the article on his personal blog, data protection specialist Jon Baines wrote that the issue "illustrates, once again, that whenever you're committing something to writing, in a professional environment, you should be aware that it could end up being publicly disclosed (potentially in court proceedings, as well as in response to a subject access request)." 

According to an independent review commissioned by the bank, NatWest Group has been found to have acted lawfully when it decided to close Nigel Farage's bank accounts, The Guardian reports. However, the review identified a number of "serious failings" in how the former UKIP leader was treated, including shortcomings in how the decision was reached, how the bank communicated with Mr Farage, and how confidential information was handled. The Financial Conduct Authority also reviewed the findings and identified potential regulatory breaches and areas for improvement. NatWest has apologized to Mr Farage and committed to implementing all recommendations made by the independent report.

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UPDATE: Versions of the main article are available without subscription from The Guardian and BBC News.

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