The debacle over the NatWest ‘debanking’ of Nigel Farage has dramatically shone a spotlight onto the ‘woke’ practises of corporations, in this case, banking.
What on earth has happened that banks feel it is their right to decide which customers’ opinions they agree with and which they don’t? Do not confuse this with PEP (Politically Exposed Persons) for whom banks have an extra duty to run checks – although this was the first excuse given in the Farage debacle.
That excuse fell at the first hurdle when NatWest CEO Alison Rose spoke to the BBC Business Editor, Simon Jack at a correspondents’ dinner and mentioned that it was due to Farage having dropped below the wealth threshold for Coutts. That is a clear breach of confidentiality and she was forced to resign, followed shortly thereafter by the Coutts Chief Executive, Peter Flavel, after he called Farage a ‘disingenuous grifter’ - a very professional way to speak about a Coutts customer!
The loss of Alison Rose is a great shame as in every other aspect of the job, she had an excellent track record.
It now appears banks have been up to this for years, and it took Farage to bring it to light. I have no time for Farage, but l will defend his right to a bank account, and his own views, to my dying breath – and that of all others who have views the banks don’t agree with – it’s called FREE SPEECH.
Many other cases have come to light such as: Claire Fox, life peer and former Brexit Party MEP; Konstantin Kisin and Frances Foster’s Triggernometry podcast; Richard Tice’s Reform Party; Stuart Campbell, an SNP blogger with gender-critical views; Gina Miller’s True and Fair Party; a group of 2,000 parents called Our Duty who oppose gender transitioning of children; Reverend Richard Fothergill, who mentioned that his bank should not be promoting transgenderism, former Chancellor Nigel Lawson’s disabled daughter have all been debanked.
In fact, banks are closing over a thousand accounts per day!
However, Sir Philip Augar, a former member of the Future of Banking Commission, which was set up to make banks more accountable to customers after the 2008 financial crisis, said he did not think cases like Mr Farage’s were widespread. Sir Philip must be feeling rather silly at the moment.
The Free Speech Union has been lobbying the Treasury to stamp out this sinister trend and it looks as though Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will do something. But will it be enough? As I understand it, the plan is to amend the Payment Services Regulations, prohibiting firms from closing the accounts of customers who are exercising their right to lawful free speech and requiring such firms to set out their reasons in more detail if they do decide to close an account.
The hope is that these changes will enable anyone who is debanked to lodge a complaint with the Financial Conduct Authority or take legal action.
But banks and other payment services providers may simply ignore the new rules, just as they’ve been ignoring the 60 days’ notice rule that states that any customer whom they wish to debank must be given 60 days’ clear notice.
On many occasions, the customer is told that the account is closed on the day of the letter or when their card stops working. At present, they almost never admit they’re closing an account for political reasons or the opinions of the customer, and instead cite nebulous ‘policies’ that often contain hundreds of clauses without being any more specific. I fear that even if the Treasury does change the regulations, companies will continue to debank, quibble over how much the ‘more detail’ rule requires them to disclose, and accept the occasional fine or compensation payment as the price of doing business.
Legislation says a credit institution (legal jargon for a bank) “must not discriminate against consumers legally resident in the United Kingdom by reason of their nationality or place of residence or by reason of sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion”.
Nikhil Rathi, Chief Executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, told MPs recently that legislation around payment accounts meant banks cannot “discriminate on the basis of political views”. Farage is set to fight back against that as he has now set up a website for all those that have been treated in this despicable way – www.AccountClosed.org – will at least give Farage something to do and for once, for a worthy cause.
Make no mistake, banks and building societies are increasingly engaged in a culture war against their own customers. They are targeting those who hold what they deem to be the wrong views. Halifax even told customers to ‘close their account’ if they didn’t like its new policy of encouraging employees to wear pronoun badges at work.
In our increasingly cashless society, this is a brutally effective way of cancelling someone and is bound to have a chilling effect on free speech. Like many of the most fiendish forms of censorship, it was invented by the Chinese Communist party.