When Coutts told Nigel Farage it was closing his accounts it said it was for commercial reasons, but the CEO then told the BBC Business Editor Simon Jack that it was because he had insufficient funds in his account.
A subsequent Subject Access Request (SAR) made by Farage revealed the real reason: the bank had compiled a 36-page dossier on him and concluded that his views “were at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation”. In other words, he was de-banked because Coutts disapproved of his perfectly lawful political beliefs.
Having found out the real reason Coutts closed his accounts via his SAR, Farage now has a range of options before him. He can can lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Conduct Authority.
He can also sue Coutts for belief discrimination. Certain beliefs are protected by the Equality Act 2010, making it unlawful for companies to discriminate against you simply because you express those beliefs, and the government has indicated it’s going to revise the Payment Services Regulations 2017 to make it clear that banks and payment processors cannot discriminate against political figures such as Farage and, indeed, campaigning organisations such as the FSU. This is something we’ve been lobbying for since we were de-banked by PayPal last year.
I was a guest on Nigel’s GB News show last week, and he confessed that if I’d mentioned the words ‘Subject Access Request’ to him two months ago, he wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea what I was talking about. And yet, they’re one of the most powerful weapons we’ve got in the fight against politically motivated financial censorship.
That’s why the FSU has just published some FAQs about the steps you should take, including how to submit a Subject Access Request, and a template Subject Access Request you can copy and adapt. If you’re an FSU member who’s been de-banked you should contact our case team and they can help you follow the steps set out in these FAQs.