ICO Apologizes to Ex-NatWest CEO Over Farage Privacy Law Claim

ICO Apologizes to Ex-NatWest CEO Over Farage Privacy Law Claim

The UK’s data watchdog has formally apologized to former NatWest CEO Alison Rose, acknowledging that it was incorrect to suggest she had violated data protection laws when discussing Nigel Farage’s banking relationship with a BBC journalist.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reversed its stance on findings released last month, which initially indicated that Rose had violated regulations by confirming Nigel Farage’s accounts with the private bank Coutts and providing misleading information to a journalist about the reasons for closing those accounts.

The ruling, released on October 25, also stated that the ICO did not intend to take any action, as Rose had already resigned in July amid the controversy. However, two days later, the watchdog announced that it would reexamine the findings urgently after receiving a complaint from Rose.

In its second review, which was released on Monday, the ICO indicated that it had mishandled the case and the way it had communicated its primary findings.

“We apologize to Ms. Rose for suggesting that we had made a finding that she breached the UK GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] concerning Mr. Farage when we had not conducted an investigation into her,” it stated. “Our investigation did not find that Ms. Rose breached data protection laws, and we regret that our statement gave the impression that she did.”

The ICO emphasized that the investigation, prompted by a complaint filed by Nigel Farage earlier this year, was directed solely at NatWest Group, not Alison Rose. The watchdog also acknowledged that it had neglected to provide the former CEO with an opportunity to respond to its findings.

The ICO stated, “Our comments created the impression that we had conducted an investigation into the actions of Alison Rose, the former CEO of NatWest Group. This was not the case. We acknowledge that, under the specific circumstances, it would have been appropriate to provide Ms. Rose with an opportunity to comment on any findings related to her role, and we regret not doing so.”

The UK’s data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has formally apologized to former NatWest CEO Alison Rose, acknowledging that it was “incorrect” to suggest that she breached data protection laws in connection with discussions about Nigel Farage’s banking relationship with a BBC journalist.

The ICO had previously released findings in October that suggested Rose had violated rules by confirming that the former Ukip leader had accounts with the private bank Coutts and by providing misleading information about the bank’s decision to close those accounts.

Following a complaint from Rose, the ICO conducted a second review, admitting that they had mishandled the case and had not investigated Rose’s actions. The investigation focused solely on NatWest Group, not Rose. The ICO expressed regret for not giving her an opportunity to respond to its conclusions.

 

An independent review, commissioned by NatWest, found that Coutts had a “contractual right” to close Farage’s accounts, citing financial losses as the reason for doing so. Rose had resigned from her position as CEO of NatWest Group in July amid the controversy.

ICO Apologizes to Ex-NatWest CEO Over Farage Privacy Law Claim

The independent review commissioned by NatWest further noted that although Coutts had concerns about the misalignment of Nigel Farage’s views on issues such as migration, race, gender, or Brexit with their own, the decision to close his accounts would likely not have been made if they considered the client relationship to be financially viable.

Nevertheless, the legal review did highlight some “significant shortcomings” in the case, notably the language and tone found in internal documents retrieved by Farage in July. These documents indicated that the bank had expressed concerns about his purported “xenophobic, chauvinistic, and racist views.”

Both the independent review and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) formal apology to Rose are expected to play a role in the decision regarding whether to recover or withhold a portion of her potential £10 million pay package, which includes her salary, bonuses, and unvested shares. This decision is currently under consideration by NatWest’s board of directors.

A spokesperson for Rose has not provided an immediate statement in response to the ICO’s apology.

A spokesperson for Farage has chosen not to comment.

In summary, the ICO has issued a formal apology to former NatWest CEO Alison Rose for an incorrect claim of breaching privacy laws concerning Nigel Farage. The ICO’s initial findings, which led to the apology, have implications for the ongoing deliberations on Rose’s pay package.