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Britain’s top financial regulator has promised further work on closing bank accounts as its initial assessment concluded politicians would not be denied services because of their views, sparking a backlash.

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Tuesday that none of the 34 banks, payments firms and building societies it inspected had closed any accounts “primarily because of a customer’s political views” in the 12 months to June 2023. Instead, it found that concerns about financial crime from dormant accounts were the main reason for closure.

Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage claimed he was “debanked” because of his political views, leading the government to order an FCA investigation. joke”.

City minister Andrew Griffith referred to the regulator’s “preliminary report” but added that “clearly there is more work to be done to verify banks’ submissions and ensure that the FCA follows up thoroughly” A non-bank customer’s perspective”.

The FCA repeatedly stressed in its lengthy report that the data was collected “quickly” and that there were significant gaps. The action only began in August after Farage claimed he was fired from private bank Coutts over his political views, sparking a national debate over free speech.

A dossier released by Farage shows the bank had said continuing to serve him would be “incompatible with Coutts” because his views were “inconsistent with our position as an inclusive organisation”.

Coutts eventually offered to retain Farage as a client, and by the end of July he was still working at the bank.

Nikhil Rathi, chief executive of the FCA, said on Tuesday: “While no bank, building society or payments company has reported to us that they closed an account primarily because of someone’s political views, we need to Further work is needed to determine this.”

The work will start by validating the data the FCA already has and tracking down “outliers” who are more likely than their peers to reject applications or close certain account types.

One area of ​​particular concern is basic bank accounts – designed to ensure everyone has access to a minimum level of financial services. The FCA found as many as 35.7% of these accounts were declined and is now asking firms why this figure is so high.

Writing in the Financial Times, Rathi said the FCA also wanted to “understand better the so-called ‘reputational’ factors behind a series of closures”.

“Some banks have a long history of refusing to offer accounts to businesses that conflict with their corporate policies. But reputation standards should not stretch too far,” he wrote.

The FCA did not give a timetable for completing the follow-up work or commit to publishing its results.

“I think the ball is firmly back in the government’s court, Andrew Griffiths and Jeremy Hunt, that’s not good enough… We need to sack the (FCA) board.” Farage saysreferring to the city minister and finance minister in a comment on X (formerly Twitter).

Government insiders said ministers were frustrated with the speed of the FCA’s initial response to the debanking controversy and wanted the regulator to provide more “concrete detail” on the issue.

Griffiths said: “Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right. No ifs, no buts – everyone must be able to express their legitimate opinions without fear of losing vital access to their bank account.”

He added: “We have taken action to force banks to explain and delay any decision to close accounts to protect free speech – meaning customers will have a 90-day notice period and a clear explanation for any account closure. This It will be supported in this year’s legislation.”

Sarah Pritchard, the FCA’s executive director of markets, told reporters that the regulator “has been very clear that it is unlawful for customers to lose access to their bank or building society accounts because of legitimately expressed political views”.


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