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Fraser Nelson: ignorance and paranoia, in one simple package


As part of our implementation of FSA guidelines around Anti-Money Laundering activities, we introduced questions on Politically Exposed Persons as part of our account opening procedures.

Genius financial columnist Nelson:

what on earth is a Politically Exposed Person?

The FSA anti-money-laundering guidelines, which have been in force for three years:

customers who, by virtue of their position in public life, are vulnerable to corruption

This isn’t earth-shattering stuff; any professional or financial services firm has to ask those questions of its clients, and RBS would be remiss for not doing so. Taking UK political party membership as an indication of PEP status was technically incorrect, but fair enough I reckon – if you’re a member of a UK political party, you’re either corrupt, stupid or massively over-optimistic…

Nelson then goes off into an insanely paranoid rant about banks asking people whether they occupy any political offices. Oh noes! A majority-government-owned institution is asking me whether I’m a political party member. The gulags surely do beckon…

If you’re worried about this, you’re a moron.

  1. March 14, 2009 at 2:00 am | #1

    Desperately trying not to be moronic, but why exactly does the bank want to know if borrowers are a member of a political party?

    Are Lib Dem'rs more or less likely to service their loans, or maybe the average Tory is likely to skip the country and live it up in Brazil?

    Just askin'…

  2. March 14, 2009 at 2:06 am | #2

    It needs to know if you're, legally, a Politically Exposed Person. Someone cocked up and thought that this meant active political party members, rather than the fairly narrow 'third world dictators' category it actually involves.

  3. March 14, 2009 at 2:12 am | #3

    Okay, no worries… I read the FSA explanation. But still, it strikes me as bizarre that the FSA would consider such a question at all relevant.

  4. March 14, 2009 at 2:14 am | #4

    Oh cack. I had half-written a post about this.

    I love a good conspiracy. :o)

  5. March 14, 2009 at 2:34 am | #5

    If that is the explanation, then RBS must a) have changed their policy recently and b) be totally stupid.

    Unless of course everybody else misinterprets PEP.

  6. Richard J
    March 14, 2009 at 2:35 am | #6

    From what I remember of PEPs from the training I had to do at one of the Big Four, the basic definition was effectively 'would we look like mercenary money-grabbing pricks if it came up in Private Eye?'

  7. Richard J
    March 14, 2009 at 2:36 am | #7

    No implication or sub-text is to be read into the above comment as to whether the Big Four are mercenary money-grabbing pricks or not.

  8. Tom
    March 14, 2009 at 3:09 am | #8

    It possibly indicates my own obsession when I assumed Big Four meant the GWR, SR, LMS and LNER.

    I'm glad they're still around and grounding people in avoiding corruption, mind you.

  9. March 14, 2009 at 3:17 am | #9

    Oddly enough, modern accountancy was invented, and the big firms were created, to deal with the accounts of the Victorian railway companies: see William Deloitte, the first ever statutory auditor of a plc – the Great Western Railway.

    Mr Deloitte, of course, went on to found the firm that became, err, PwC (100% pure truth).

  10. dsquared
    March 14, 2009 at 3:52 am | #10

    it probably reflects my age that I still think of them as the Big Six.

  11. Richard J
    March 14, 2009 at 4:02 am | #11

    For the painfully curious – the family trees of most British accountancy firms.

    (Incidentally, did anyone else notice that the big photo on p.15 of today's Guardian had the entire group structure of News International in the background? Albeit unreadable.)

  12. Richard J
    March 14, 2009 at 4:02 am | #12

    apologies for the browser-fucking length of that link.

  1. May 29, 2009 at 3:26 pm | #1

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