The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

UK Banks Commit to "the Principle of Non-Discrimination Based on Lawful Freedom of Expression" as to Clients


From The Independent (UK):

Economic secretary Andrew Griffith told the bosses of some of the UK's biggest banks on Wednesday that it is important to protect freedom of expression….

It came after former politician Nigel Farage's bank account with Coutts—a bank for the ultra wealthy—was closed.

The account was shut after Mr Farage's mortgage payments came to an end. Due to extra checks on so-called politically exposed persons (PEPs), Mr Farage and other politicians are expensive to provide services to.

Therefore, when he had paid off his mortgage he fell below Coutts' "commercial criteria" basis. The bank cited this, and his public profile as an at times controversial figure with opinions which it said clashed with the bank, as the reasons for why it terminated his account….


The Treasury said the bank bosses at the meeting had committed to "the principle of non-discrimination based on lawful freedom of expression."

The financial companies represented at the meeting were apparently Barclays UK, HSBC UK, Lloyds, Nationwide, NatWest, and Santander UK.

In the U.S., banks are generally forbidden from discriminating based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and the like, but not based on political beliefs. A recent Florida statute, however, does generally forbid financial entities from discriminating against people based on those people's "opinions, speech, or affiliations." Likewise, local ordinances in some places (such as Champaign, Illinois ban discrimination in "credit transactions" based on, among other things, "belonging to or endorsing any political party or organization or taking part in any activities of a political nature").

For other laws (mostly local ordinances) that ban discrimination by various other businesses based on patrons' political activity, see here.