Privacy watchdog apologises to former NatWest boss over claim she broke data protection rules

The UK’s privacy watchdog has apologised to former NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose after it suggested she broke data protection rules when discussing Nigel Farage’s bank account with a journalist.

Dame Alison stepped down her her role as chief executive of one of the UK’s biggest banks after admitting that she had talked with a BBC reporter about Mr Farage’s relationship with Coutts - a NatWest subsidiary.

Last month the Information Commissioner’s Office said that an individual employed by Natwest had shared information in doing so had “infringed the complainant’s data protection rights”.

The regulator has now admitted it had not investigated Dame Alison’s actions, so was wrong to say that she had breached General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation.

In a statement the ICO said: “Our comments gave the impression that we had investigated the actions of Alison Rose, the former CEO of NatWest Group. This was incorrect.

“We confirm that we did not investigate Ms Rose’s actions, given that NatWest was the data controller under investigation.

“We accept that it would have been appropriate in the specific circumstances for us to have given Ms Rose an opportunity to comment on any findings in relation to her role and regret not doing so.

Dame Alison Rose spoke to a BBC journalist about her bank’s relationship with Nigel Farage (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
Dame Alison Rose spoke to a BBC journalist about her bank’s relationship with Nigel Farage (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

“Finally, we apologise to Ms Rose for suggesting that we had made a finding that she breached the UK GDPR in respect of Mr Farage when we had not investigated her. Our investigation did not find that Ms Rose breached data protection law and we regret that our statement gave the impression that she did.”

In a separate investigation that concluded last month it was reported that Natwest’s decision to shut down Mr Farage‘s Coutts account showed “serious failings” in its treatment of the politician.

Law firm Travers Smith, which was reviewing the banking giant in the wake of debanking saga found failures in how it treated confidential information.

But the decision to shut down Mr Farage‘s bank account was lawful, and predominately commercial, it reported.

“Coutts considered its relationship with Mr Farage to be commercially unviable because it was significantly loss-making,” it said.

Mr Farage said earlier this year that Coutts had moved to shut down his account because his political beliefs did not align with the bank.

Additional reporting by PA