NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose quits after Nigel Farage leak admission
Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the banking watchdog, revealed that it had raised concerns about breaches of confidentiality by Coutts and its parent company NatWest and said it had “made clear” to the bigger bank the need for an independent review.
On Tuesday night, senior Conservative MPs demanded that Dame Alison resign or be fired from her job at a bank that is 39 per cent owned by the taxpayer.
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, said: “She has to go. She has admitted it and she has to go. She has broken one of the fundamental codes of banking and therefore she must go.”
‘She has broken the cardinal rule’
A City chief executive earlier on Tuesday said: “She has broken the cardinal rule of banking. An FCA investigation is inevitable now. Her position is untenable and she should resign. It’s ridiculous the board is backing her given the seriousness of the offence.”
The scandal engulfing NatWest comes after a Telegraph investigation revealed that Mr Farage’s accounts were closed after Coutts decided that the views of the former Ukip leader “do not align with our values”.
The BBC had previously run a story by Mr Jack that falsely claimed that Mr Farage had not met Coutts’ financial requirements. Dame Alison and Mr Jack had sat next to each other at a charity dinner the night before the BBC published its story on July 4.
Explaining what she had told Mr Jack, Dame Alison said in her statement: “Believing it was public knowledge, I confirmed that Mr Farage was a Coutts customer and that he had been offered a NatWest bank account. Alongside this, I repeated what Mr Farage had already stated, that the bank saw this as a commercial decision.”
She insisted she had not revealed “any personal financial information” about Mr Farage but admitted: “I left Mr Jack with the impression that the decision to close Mr Farage’s accounts was solely a commercial one.
“Put simply, I was wrong to respond to any question raised by the BBC about this case. I want to extend my sincere apologies to Mr Farage for the personal hurt this has caused him.”
Mr Farage earlier called for Dame Alison to quit on Twitter: “Dame Alison Rose has now admitted that she is the source. She broke client confidentiality, and is unfit to be CEO of NatWest Group.
“Meanwhile, Coutts CEO Peter Flavel must take the ultimate responsibility for de-banking me based on my political views. Sir Howard Davies is responsible for overall governance. He has clearly failed in this task, least of all by endorsing their conduct. In my view, they should all go.”
The former Brexit Party leader has accused Mr Flavel of being “asleep at the wheel” throughout the scandal. He has written to him three times, but has yet to receive a reply and has called his handling of the crisis “an absolute disgrace”.
Hours before the announcement of Dame Alison’s resignation, Sir Howard Davies, NatWest’s chairman, said the bank was standing by Dame Alison.
In an earlier statement on Tuesday, he said: “This was a regrettable error of judgment on her part. The events will be taken into account in decisions on remuneration at the appropriate time.
“However, after careful reflection the board has concluded that it retains full confidence in Ms Rose as CEO of the bank.
“The board is clear that the overall handling of the circumstances surrounding Mr Farage’s accounts has been unsatisfactory, with serious consequences for the bank. The board will commission an independent review into the account closure arrangement at Coutts, and the lessons to be learnt from this.”
It is unclear whether Dame Alison’s leak to the BBC will form part of that independent inquiry. The FCA issued a warning to the bank that unless the review was “well resourced”, given full access to all “necessary” information and takes place “swiftly and fully”, it reserved the right to launch its own inquiry.
Sheldon Mills, the executive director at the FCA, said: “We have raised concerns with NatWest Group and Coutts about the allegations relating to account closures and breach of customer confidentiality since these came to light.
“We made clear our expectation that these issues should be independently reviewed and note (Tuesday’s) statement from the NatWest Group Board confirming this will happen. It is vital that the review is well resourced and those conducting it have access to all the necessary information and people in order to investigate what happened swiftly and fully.
“On the basis of the review and any steps taken by other authorities, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service or Information Commissioner, on relevant complaints, we will decide if any further action is necessary.”
The pressure on Dame Alison to admit her role in the leak had become overwhelming ahead of the publication on Friday of NatWest’s results for the first half of the year.
The announcement would have been dominated by questions over whether she was the source of the BBC story.