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NatWest’s subsidiary, Coutts, faces scandal after leaked transcripts reveal their Wealth Management team’s disdain for Nigel Farage due to his beliefs and associations. The bank’s CEO breached client confidentiality by leaking the information to the BBC, leading to her resignation. The incident sparks debates on political alignments and the dangers of institutions forcing beliefs. As shareholders brace for the fallout, questions arise about the stability of institutions adhering to divisive ideologies. London’s financial scandal shakes the foundations of English exceptionalism, prompting calls for increased regulation and raising concerns about the integrity of other institutions.
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The astonishing story gripping the City of London
By Simon Lincoln-Reader*
Rarely do you encounter a story that demolishes the myth of English exceptionalism, ridicules us for the things we consider right-on to believe in, and reminds us how reckless it is to continue seeing the world through ‘left’ or ‘right’ – all at the same time. But I’m afraid London’s latest financial scandal contains all that.
NatWest, one of the UK’s largest banks, has around 19m customers. One of its subsidiaries is Coutts – merchant bankers to the royal family, with whom you can only bank if you have £3m in savings. As part of 2008’s rescue package, where disgusting people like us were forced into ensuring bankers’ supplies of cocaine remained uninterrupted, the taxpayer became a 39% owner of Coutts. Not the sort of thing these people admit freely.
Earlier this year the former politician and broadcaster, Nigel Farage, claimed that he’d received a letter from his bank – he never mentioned Coutts by name at the time – declaring that it was closing his account. Farage, despite being neither a member of the Conservatives or Labour, led the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union in 2016; if you judge result by intent, then – irrespective of whether you admire the man or not – he is the most successful politician of his age.
Although banks are technically permitted to choose their customers, the exiting of Farage appeared highly unusual.
A number of initial claims surfaced. He was a PEP – a politically exposed person. That is true, but there are many other PEPs who have not been exited from their banks. He accepted a bunch of cash from Russians, and was suspected of money laundering. That is demonstrably false – gossip circulated by a prancing Welsh queen (Chris Bryant) using parliamentary privilege. Then the story started getting hairy – because that’s what happens to a story when the BBC gets involved.
Some weeks ago, the BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, tweeted that Farage lost his account at Coutts – naming the bank for the first time – because the account had fallen below the £3m threshold. It was an extraordinary claim, not least because Farage hadn’t even been told this. Up until then his letters to the banking asking why were going unanswered. Unhappy, he submitted the equivalent of an access-to-information application, forcing the bank to disclose exactly what intelligence it was hoarding on him.
What emerged almost defies belief. Last year Coutts’ Wealth Management team met to discuss Nigel Farage, or more accurately, how much they hated him. The basis of their contempt according to the transcripts of the meeting include that he wasn’t a fan of the city-destroying BLM, that he retweeted a joke by the comedian Ricky Gervais about men who think they are women – and is ‘known for associating with Novak Djokovic and Donald Trump’. It’s abhorrent, according to a bank whose previous clients include the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Russian Oligarchs, one of whom allegedly killed a man on a mountain, that one of their clients knows one of the greatest tennis players in history and the democratically elected 45th President of the United States.
Then things got even hairier. The night before Jack composed his tweet, he was spotted sitting next to the CEO of NatWest, Dame Alison Rose, at a charity dinner. Since her appointment Rose has delighted the 39% owners of Coutts, not by leading the bank in a particularly reassuring way, but by talking whenever she can about all the most important things in Western civilization – girl bosses, the day of the year when Natwest staff can come to work as a man or a woman and of course, how the evil white patriarchy is burning down the planet. Rose and Jack were seen in conversation, leading critics to speculate that it was probably the only time in the BBC’s recent history when the subject of discussion was not how to procure intimate photographs from vulnerable young men.
On Tuesday night, Rose revealed that it was her. She had breached client confidentiality. She had leaked the information to the state broadcaster, which should subject her to breach of privacy law, punishable by 4% of the company’s turnover, roughly £632m in NatWest’s case. The board then made the typical metropolitan echo chamber, ‘oh well, she’s really screwed up here, but whatever, we’re sticking by her’ excuse/announcement, which lasted roughly 4 hours before Rose resigned. Tomorrow, NatWest is supposed to announce its bi-annual performance results; yesterday, the share price tanked by 3.9%, losing £850m. I cannot see how this unfolds, but I’m reasonably certain it will unfold without the people upon whose behalf that statement was released.
Equally astonishing is the political response. People who claim to be on the right are now seeking more regulation and governance; those who claim to be on the left are unhappy that a company cannot administer itself to its own accords. And it is here, in studying the most updated example of the great realignment of politics, that the real problem emerges. NatWest, and many other institutions across the west, have borrowed heavily from the censorship routines of 2020, then tried to build cultures from them, forcing people to believe in things they ordinarily wouldn’t, or don’t want to. This makes it worse than one of these increasingly frequent cases of ‘go woke, go broke’: if circumstances can make bankers mad enough to break the single most important rule of their trade, what is stopping pilots from flying planes into orphanages?
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*Follow SLR on Twitter: @SiLincolnReader
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