The BBC has issued an apology to former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage over a news article about the closure of his account with private bank Coutts.
After Mr Farage first alleged earlier this month that his account had been closed for political reasons, the BBC cited sources who claimed that Mr Farage no longer met the financial requirements for an account at the bank, which caters to the mega-wealthy.
However, Mr Farage later obtained an internal report from Coutts which highlighted factors including concerns over what was described as “xenophobic and racist” views and alleged ties to Russia.
BBC business editor Simon Jack, who reported the initial story, said: “The information on which we based our reporting on Nigel Farage and his bank accounts came from a trusted and senior source. However, the information turned out to be incomplete and inaccurate. Therefore I would like to apologise to Mr Farage.”
BBC News CEO Deborah Turness has written to Mr Farage to say sorry, the BBC said.
Mr Farage said: “My thanks to [Simon Jack] for his apology. I have also received a letter of apology from the BBC News CEO, Deborah Turness. I am very grateful to both.”
In a video on social media, he added: “It’s not often the BBC apologise. I’m very, very pleased.”
Coutts is owned by NatWest, and the bank has said that Mr Farage was offered a regular NatWest account after he was informed his Coutts accounts would be closed.
NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose apologised to Mr Farage last week for what she called “deeply inappropriate” comments about his political views included in the bank’s internal report.
She reiterated “our offer to you of alternative banking arrangements at NatWest” and promised “a full review of the Coutts processes for how these decisions are made and communicated, to ensure we provide better, clearer and more consistent experience for customers in the future.”
Mr Farage has since said he is “considering all options” including legal action against NatWest, claiming that the contents of its internal report were “unfair and defamatory” – though it was he who made parts of the report’s contents public after obtaining it via a subject access request.
City minister Andrew Griffith wrote to bank chiefs on Monday, asking for a meeting to discuss protections to avoid customers “being de-banked”.
Mr Griffith told banks that regulations around politically exposed persons are “being applied in a disproportionate manner by some financial institutions”, and while a legal change on the issue announced last week is yet to come into effect, “firms should seek to take action as soon as possible”.
The Treasury plans to extend the notice period for a forced account closure from 30 days to 90 days, giving customers more time to find a replacement bank or challenge a decision through the Financial Ombudsman Service.