Anti-Europe campaign group Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance, a company owned by Leave.EU founder Arron Banks, have been fined a total of £135,000 for misuse of data.
An investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioner found that more than a million emails sent to Leave.EU subscribers, who had not consented to receive marketing information, contained promotional material for Eldon Insurance, an insurance broker owned by Banks. Meanwhile a newsletter promoting Leave.EU was sent to more than 319,000 Eldon Insurance customers. The commissioner described the breach as “a disturbing disregard for voters’ personal privacy.”
Banks dismissed the findings, tweeting “we may have accidentally sent a newsletter to customers… [but there was] no evidence of a grand data conspiracy.” Overall, data laws tend to frown on the unsanctioned sharing of consumer data between political campaigns and private businesses.
Leaked Eldon Insurance emails seen by the Observer this weekend indicated that Eldon staff worked on the Leave campaign from Eldon’s offices and discussed data sharing. Banks has previously denied any relationship between Eldon and Leave.EU, telling a select committee in June that there was no staffing overlap between the two organisations.
Banks, nicknamed Bankski by mischievous campaigners, has faced questions about his relationship with Russia and funding discrepancies in multiple Brexit campaigns. In May 2018 Leave.EU was fined £70,000 for breaching electoral spending limits; and Banks and Leave.EU have separately been referred to the National Crime Agency by the Electoral Commission, with the commission expressing its suspicion that Banks was not the “true source” of Leave.EU’s funding and that the money had come from “impermissible sources”. The Financial Conduct Authority has declared its intention to examine Banks’s finances and those of Eldon Insurance.
In the US, special prosecutor Robert Mueller – who is overseeing a wide-ranging investigation into links between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government – has obtained records of Banks’s communications with Russian diplomats.
Banks insists there has been no wrongdoing and declared his confidence that a full investigation will find him innocent of all allegations. In a statement he blamed “intense political pressure” from Remainers for the Electoral Commission’s actions.