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Starling Bank boss threatens former anti-fraud minister over “wild accusations”

Anne Boden’s letter to Lord Agnew of Oulton denied alleged failures to stop fraud during the pandemic.

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Anne Boden/Starling Bank.

In what is becoming quite the public showdown, Starling Bank boss Anne Boden has written to Lord Agnew of Oulton demanding that the former anti-fraud minister retract his statements about the bank being “one of the worst” lenders for preventing fraud during the pandemic.

The neobank founder and CEO hinted at potential legal ramifications if the demands are not met.

Agnew had made the remarks in question during an event in which he claimed that Starling Bank was “one of the worst when it came to validating the turnover of businesses or submitting suspicious activity reports”. He said the bank had used the bounce-back loan scheme to “swell its balance sheet by a factor of 50 times in barely less than a year, with no risk to themselves and 100 per cent risk to the taxpayer”.

The Treasury-led bounce-bank loan scheme reduced red tape on credit checks to get funds to businesses quickly during the pandemic. Traditional banks, uncomfortable with the level of risk this introduced, restricted loans to existing customers, so neo banks like Starling became critically important for many small businesses and sole traders in accessing the loan scheme. 

Yet Agnew levied further accusations to the bank of playing down the seriousness of directors exaggerating their turnover to obtain larger loans.

“Your statements are defamatory, and I must ask you to withdraw them,” rebuffed Boden in the letter. “You say that you have no information to support your accusations, but you continue to repeat them despite Starling making it clear that you are wrong.”

Starling reserves all its rights in relation to your defamatory statements,” she continued.

The letter, first reported on by The Times, called the former anti-fraud minister a “public school-educated landed gentleman” who had “made a fortune from offshore outsourcing”.

She also accused Agnew of attempting to “exculpate [himself] from the responsibilities that [he] accepted when [he] took the job as a minister”.

Agnew previously said he would not withdraw his accusations until Starling provided evidence to the contrary. He has since declined to comment on Boden’s letter.

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