The PRA's review of a business case by Warrington Borough Councl for investing in a bank

Richard Buttrey made this Freedom of Information request to Prudential Regulation Authority

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Prudential Regulation Authority,

During 2016 and early 2017 Warrington Borough Council (WBC) officers conducted a full due diligence exercise on the business case for investing in a bank.
The Council's Executive Board minutes of January 2017 say that the business case has been stringently reviewed by the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) as part of the process of granting a banking licence and by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

What is the name and company number of the bank that was the subject of the review that the PRA conducted?

What is the name of the bank and company number that was issued a banking licence subsequent to the PRA's review of the business case?

Did the business case reviewed by the PRA make any mention of the prices that would be paid, (or was intended to be paid) for the shares to be issued to WBC, and the prices to be paid by the other shareholders? If that was the case please let me have any comments that the PRA made to WBC

Does a bank known as Redwood Financial Partners Ltd, Company number 09760209 currently hold a banking licence?

Yours faithfully,

Richard Buttrey

Collins, Sandra, Prudential Regulation Authority

Dear Mr Buttrey

We acknowledge receipt of your email dated 19 December below (our ref: CAS-03487-Q5F7N5).

We will reply in due course.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team, Communications Directorate
Bank of England | Threadneedle Street | London EC2R 8AH | +44 20 3461 4878
[PRA request email]

show quoted sections

Enquiries, Prudential Regulation Authority

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Buttrey

Please find attached response to your email dated 19 December 2018 below.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team, Communications Directorate
Bank of England | Threadneedle Street | London EC2R 8AH | +44 20 3461 4878
[PRA request email]

show quoted sections

30 January 2019
FAO Wendy Galvin, Information Access Team (TS-Mz), Communications Directorate, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London, EC2R 8AH

Ref. CAS-03487-Q5F7N5
I request an internal review of the decision not to release some of the information requested in my FoI request dated 19 December 2018 - See Ref above. My request contained 4 parts. This appeal is in respect of the first two. i.e.
1. What is the name and company number of the bank that was the subject of the review that the PRA conducted?
2. What is the name of the bank and company number that was issued a banking licence subsequent to the PRA's review of the business case? My reasons are as follows.

The rejection relies on Section 348 (2) Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. It is said that the information requested is confidential. I maintain the information requested can by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as confidential.
Section 348 (2)(a) defines confidential information as relating to business affairs. Please note the 'business affairs' reference. The publicly available minutes published by Warrington Borough Council (WBC) (and referenced in the FoI request) tell us that a bank called Redwood Bank was subject to a PRA review.
There are two 'Redwood' banks, WBC use the term 'Redwood Bank somewhat loosely. The two banks are Redwood Bank Limited and Redwood Bank Financial Partners Limited. The FoI request is simply aimed at clearing up the confusion as to which bank was reviewed by the PRA

I fail to see how merely confirming the name of the bank that was the subject of the PRA's review can possibly be regarded as either a 'business affair' (the subject of Section 348) or breaching any confidentiality. Knowing the name of a bank tells us nothing about the bank's business affairs. That seems to me to be such common sense that it should be unremarkable and I'm surprised the PRA find
it necessary to refuse my request.on this basis.

I would also point out that the PRA has published on its web site the names of organisations that it has been asked to review. e.g. letter on 11 June re The Co-operative Bank plc, and of course it publishes decisions about reviews it has undertaken naming the organisations in question. I fail to see how confirming Redwood Bank Ltd and not Redwood Financial Partners Ltd was the bank reviewed by the PRA is in any way caught by Section 348.

Section 348(4) (a) defines what is NOT confidential information. i.e. Information is not confidential information if
— 348(4)(a) it has been made available to the public by virtue of being disclosed in any circumstances in which, or for any purposes for which, disclosure is not precluded by this section

Since WBC have, as a statutory duty indicated elsewhere the name of the bank (albeit without total clarity - see above) that was the subject of a PRA review, S 348 (4) (a) applies and hence the information requested is NOT confidential.
If the name of the bank is confirmed, see item 1 above then I am happy that item 2 may be ignored since the answer to that can be established elsewhere.

The PRA have chosen to define confidential information as
"any information (except for information which has lawfully been made available to the public or which is so framed that it is not possible to ascertain which person it relates to) which has been received by the Bank for the purposes of, or in discharge of, its functions under any provision made by or under FSMA and which relates to the business or other affairs of any person."

However neither in section 348, nor anywhere else in the act is 'business affairs' defined. All that Section 348(2)(a) says is that confidential information relating to 'business affairs' may not be disclosed.

The PRA should not be defining something which is NOT defined in statute, and inventing a non statutory definition to refuse my request. Even using the PRA's arbitrary definition above it is hard to see how confirming the precise name of the Redwood Bank that was the subject of the PRA review would put the PRA in breach of the Act. The two Redwood Banks are closely associated with one owning 90% of the other.

I must therefore request that the information sought in my FoI request - items 1 & 2 above be released

Yours sincerely
Richard Buttrey

Enquiries, Prudential Regulation Authority

Dear Mr Buttrey

We acknowledge receipt of your email dated 30 January below (our ref: CAS-04863-L5W0L6).

We will reply in due course.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team, Communications Directorate
Bank of England | Threadneedle Street | London EC2R 8AH | +44 20 3461 4878
[PRA request email]

show quoted sections

Enquiries, Prudential Regulation Authority

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Buttrey

Please find attached response to your email of 30 January below.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team, Communications Directorate
Bank of England | Threadneedle Street | London EC2R 8AH
+44 20 3461 4878

show quoted sections