following the daily telegraphThe headline story of Nigel Farage and his bank accounts, there are many eggs on many faces. Whoever the sources decided to tell the press that Coutts closed his accounts on strictly financial grounds seem to have forgotten about the subject access requests.
There is no need to repeat here why it is highly inappropriate for banks to deny people access to services because of their political views; We looked at that case in detail a couple of weeks ago.
But these revelations give a new urgency to the problem. With the clock ticking down to the next elections, it is essential that the Government take charge of this now; Ensuring that progressive corporations do not discriminate against right-wingers is unlikely to be at the top of Labour’s list of priorities.
Treasury sources confirm the Telegraphreports that the department is seriously considering tightening the rules. Possible measures include requiring banks to provide a clear reason for closures (as they have manifestly failed to do in the Farage case) and longer notice periods, to give affected customers more time to seek redress.
Meanwhile, Principle Six in the Financial Conduct Authority manual says that: “A company should pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly.” There may be room to refine what this means.
Andrew Griffith, the Economic Secretary of the Treasury, also tweeted today that “the privilege of a banking license in a democracy should imply a duty not to ‘unbank’ because you disagree with someone’s views,” suggesting another possible vector for regulatory toughening.
The devil, however, will be in the details. Coutts, and some of those who still defend his decision, drew a distinction between politics and values. He Telegraph cites the minutes of a meeting:
“The committee did not think that continuing to bank NF was compatible with Coutts due to his publicly stated views that were at odds with our position as an inclusive organization. This was not a political decision, but one focused on inclusion and purpose.”
To those who don’t share the values of Coutts’ wealth reputational risk committee, this will sound like nonsense. But the mentality that it reflects is quite real; As I noted in my article this morning on international law, there is a strong progressive tendency to treat an ever-expanding sphere of values as something above, or at least beyond, politics.
Therefore, any effective regulation would have to be extremely strictly worded, perhaps to the point of listing specific and limited criteria (Griffith mentions “criminal activity”) for denial of service.
If not, the millstone of corporate progressivism will continue to grind, slowly but extremely finely. And few of those trapped below will have the profile to bog him down as Farage has.