The former NatWest chief executive Alison Rose spoke to a BBC journalist about the planned closure of Nigel Farage’s bank accounts. It is in the news today that the ICO has said in a report said that this broke data protection rules on two counts: first by revealing that Farage had a banking relationship with its private bank, Coutts; and secondly by providing “misleading information” that led the BBC to believe the bank was closing his accounts for purely commercial reasons, linked to his wealth. Documents obtained by Farage in July showed that while Coutts had considered the fact that he had fallen below the bank’s multimillion-pound account thresholds, the bank also decided to close his accounts due to concerns over his political views, which it said did not align with the bank’s.
It seems to me that the first count is clear, the existence of the account is accurate personal information that should not be disclosed. The second, lying about the reason for the closure, surprises me. Why a company chooses to end a business relationship seems like the sort of behind closed doors commercial decision that companies are allowed to lie about, as long as they are not manipulating stock prices or something.
What are the rules about lying in such a situation? If Nigel Farage has announced the existence and closure of the accounts, and publically requested the bank give a reason, would lying then have been illegal? Had the information released actually been accurate would that have broken the same rule?