Directors must not use companies to advance their own political agendas

Letter to the Daily Telegraph from Prof Stephen Bush on 21st July 2023

The comment on the NatWest/Coutts Bank’s action in closing Nigel Farage’s account for political reasons has rightly focussed on the “free speech” angle, comparable in fact with the de-platforming of speakers in universities by student activists objecting to their visitors’ political views.

The particular political views cited by the Coutts Bank’s internal memorandum as being not in keeping with certain of its own values, notably those relating to so-called ”diversity”, “equality~, “inclusion”, “Brexit”, “net-zero” and “LGBT rights” raise the fundamental question as to what this particular bank’s directors believe its objectives to be.

These are actually set out in its Memorandum of Association under “objectives of the company”. It is unlikely that they could cover the highly political interpretation of the above subjects which the CEOs of both NatWest and Coutts give them, particularly, but not only, in respect of Mr Farage. Company law is quite clear: you are not permitted to use your company’s assets, its employees, or your own paid-for time to pursue political objectives unless allowed by special resolution of the shareholders.

If the directors of a company wish to pursue political objectives, they can of course do so, but at their own expense and in their own time, being careful, as many directors have been in the past, to make clear that in so doing they are not acting on behalf of their company or making their company’s employees conform to their views in any way.

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