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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK

Business: The Company File

Bank to drop evangelist

The Bank of Scotland is to pull out of the Robertson deal

The Bank of Scotland is to cut its links with the US evangelist and businessman Pat Robertson after he said Scotland was "a dark country" overrun by homosexuals.

Tony McMahon looks at the background to the troubled deal
The bank came under increasing pressure to drop plans to launch a telephone banking operation in the United States with Robertson Financial Services.

An estimated £400m has been wiped off shares since the furore erupted on Tuesday.

[ image: Pat Robertson: Scotland a
Pat Robertson: Scotland a "dark land"
Bank executives decided to review the contract with Mr Robertson after watching the preacher's broadcast - which is available on the Internet.

Bank of Scotland Chief Executive, Peter Burt, will tell Mr Robertson the deal is off when he meets him in the United States on Friday afternoon.

A source at the bank told the BBC an announcement on the links being severed would be made after the meeting.

TUC finance director Mike Jones: "We want the bank to sever the deal they've made"
An offical spokeswoman for the Bank of Scotland said: "There will be a statement released after the meeting but we do not expect that to be before the early hours of tomorrow morning UK time."

The Internet broadcast was the culmination of months of controversy over the proposed deal and Mr Robertson's views.

"In Scotland, you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are," Mr Robertson said on his Virginia-based Christian Broadcasting Network and his 700 Club television show.

Rev Dr Kevin Franz of Action for Churches Together in Scotland gives his response
The evangelist was a one-time presidential candidate for the Republican party and is regarded as an inspiration to the "moral majority" movement of right-wing Christians in the United States.

He believes that Scotland is violating its Christian heritage by tolerating gays and lesbians.

[ image:  ]
Scottish churches - the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church - have come in for special criticism from Mr Robertson, because they have ordained homosexuals.

But Gene Kapp, a spokesman for Mr Robertson, said the comments were taken out of context.

"He indicated that Scotland has a great, proud history and like many places in Europe and in the United States, what really needs to happen is a return to the more traditional values, period. It really had nothing to do with the homosexual issue.

"What has happened is there has been, in some of the Scottish and UK media, an effort to distort his position on issues and a republication of quotes attributed to him that are either not factually correct or taken out of context in many cases."

Some Scottish customers were unhappy that their bank should do business with a man who holds such views.

The bank acknowledges that up to 500 people have switched their accounts to other banks.

[ image: Some customers threatened to switch allegiance to other banks]
Some customers threatened to switch allegiance to other banks
More damaging is the loss of large institutional customers, and the general damage to the bank's image.

The new Scottish Parliament holds an account with the bank and MSPs indicated they would call for it to be closed.

West Lothian Council in Scotland had arranged to meet later this month to consider whether to continue depositing funds with the bank or withdraw them. That meeting is now likely to be cancelled.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress also threatened to switch the business of 100,000 of its members, who use a Bank of Scotland affinity card.

The United States may be the world's top financial market place, but its banking industry has not quite kept pace with developments. The Bank of Scotland is seen to be particularly adept at gaining customers by offering new banking services.

In co-operation with supermarket chain Sainsbury, the bank set up the phone-banking venture Sainsbury's Bank, which gained some 800,000 customers and about £2bn ($3bn) deposits within two years.

[ image:  ]
Doing business with Mr Robertson was seen as a means of helping the bank to break into the huge US market. The evangelist's most important asset in the deal was his fabled mailing list of the hundreds of thousands of people sharing his beliefs and listening to his gospel.

The bank said it expected to have access to this "huge data bank" of names and addresses.

But Mr Robertson has sworn never to sell the names on this list - and the transatlantic banking deal reportedly did not guarantee access to the evangelist's flock.

The Bank of Scotland's shares have shown signs of recovery amid indications it would pull out of the deal and analysts say the bank must now reassure anxious investors.

Laura Lambie, of Capel Cure and Sharp, said: "There has been more and more bad publicity. We've had protest groups picketing the bank .

"Now the market has looked at the whole deal and thought, is this a good idea - should the bank be continuing with it and with bad publicity."

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The Company File Contents

Relevant Stories

03 Jun 99†|†UK
Pat Robertson: God's new banker?

02 Mar 99†|†The Company File
Banking for God

Internet Links

Bank of Scotland

West Lothian Council

Watch Pat Robertson's broadcast in which he made the comments (29mins into the programme)

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