Jason Costain headed the fraud analytics and threat management team at NatWest
NatWest’s fraud prevention boss left his job after moonlighting at a law firm bringing scam victim claims against banks like NatWest, This is Money can reveal.
Jason Costain was head of fraud prevention at high street bank NatWest, and as a high-profile employee was often quoted in the press.
But he quietly left his role in 2023 after the bank took ‘appropriate internal action’ after finding he had been helping out the fraud department of Liverpool-based law firm CEL Solicitors.
The NatWest fraud boss was allegedly due to get a £20,000 cash payment from CEL while still employed by NatWest as head of fraud strategy and relationship management, according to a High Court judgment in June 2023.
High Court judge Bever ruled that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ CEL chief executive Paul Hampson did ask an employee to set aside £20,000 in cash for Costain, though there is no firm evidence of it ever being made.
Hampson maintains that Costain was never paid by CEL, that he never gave the law firm any NatWest information and that everything was above board.
CEL specialises in bringing claims on behalf of people that have been scammed, among other areas.
The exact nature of what Costain did for CEL between November 2020 and mid-2021 is unclear, with High Court judge Adrian Bever saying the law firm had not ‘provided me with a complete picture of its dealings with Mr Costain’.
However, Costain was involved with training CEL staff, creating fraud information content and answering staff queries, according to High Court documents.
All the while he was effectively moonlighting as he was still employed by NatWest.
Costain also told This is Money he never took any money from CEL and never discussed any NatWest data with the law firm.
But the court heard that Hampson emailed Costain in November 2020 asking him to give the law firm ‘a huge list of breaches and failures by the bank’.
Costain sent messages to a WhatsApp group of CEL staff called ‘Golden Ticket’ saying: ‘If banks are forced to refund in full, basically we are in a repeat of PPI. We can handle everyone’s claim! There is £0.5bn of loss looking for someone to administer their claim.’
These court filings add that Costain was at one point offered the position of CEL’s head of fraud by Hampson, who claims to have met him at a social event.
Costain was ‘often in CEL’s office’, and was involved with training staff, creating fraud content for CEL’s website and answering employee’s questions, former CEL finance director Thomas Blanchfield said in court filings.
Blanchfield added that Costain had access to hundreds of CEL files, many of which were successful claims against NatWest.
Another former CEL employee, head of litigation Mark Montaldo, says Costain acted as a consultant for CEL and attended the office in 2021, according to court documents.
Blanchfield complained about Costain to NatWest and to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in January 2023.
In the High Court judgment, Blanchfield claims that Hampson had asked him to arrange a payment to Costain of £20,000 in cash.
Hampson said Costain only provided CEL information on the banking sector generally, and never on NatWest, and denies ever making the £20,000 payment.
The proceedings between CEL and ex-staff were heard in the Manchester Civil Justice Centre
Judge Bever added that the relationship between Costain and CEL was ‘unorthodox’ and that ‘it is difficult to understand why Mr Costain would devote time and energy to CEL when he was apparently receiving no remuneration for doing so’.
Costain was offered a payment package of 20 per cent of the profits of the CEL fraud department, later raised to 35 per cent, but never took up the offer and continued to work at NatWest.
Judge Bever said in his June judgment that ‘shortly before handing down this judgment, I was informed that Mr Costain is no longer employed by NatWest’.
A NatWest spokesman said: ‘We are aware of legal proceedings between third parties and that the conduct of a then-bank employee was relevant to those proceedings.
‘We take such matters very seriously and appropriate internal action was taken once the bank became aware of them.
‘The judgment in the proceedings did not make any finding that bank customer confidential information had been shared by our former employee with CEL.’
Costain’s LinkedIn profile says he left NatWest in June 2023 after five years and four months with the company.
Hampson says Costain earned ‘£250,000 per year’ at NatWest, according to court documents, though the former bank employee denies this.
In January 2023, Blanchfield and Montaldo resigned from CEL, partly due to concerns about Costain and also the financial position of CEL.
The duo then set up their own law firm, MTCC Solutions. However, CEL took Blanchfield, Montaldo and MTCC to court, claiming the duo had breached their contractual and statutory duties by setting MTCC up.
The claim failed, and MTCC has now been dissolved, but the High Court judgment of 29 June 2023 did reveal all of the above claims about Costain.
A spokesman for CEL said: ‘CEL had exploratory discussions with Mr Costain as a senior hire to its team helping victims of online and banking fraud. All discussions were subject to stringent confidentiality.
‘As part of these talks, Mr Hampson requested, and Mr Costain shared, information about banking fraud and regulation – all of which was in the public domain.
‘The defendants’ evidence confirmed Mr Costain never shared any confidential information with CEL. The judge accepted Mr Costain was never paid for these discussions.’
Costain said: ‘The court case took place without my involvement. I was not asked to be a witness in the legal case, and I was not a party in the proceedings either.
‘The judge found that there was no evidence that I received any money from CEL Solicitors whatsoever, and I am happy to confirm that I did not. I was job hunting in 2020 and discussed a potential role with CEL Solicitors.
‘As the defendants in the 2023 legal case confirmed, I did not discuss any confidential information concerning NatWest with CEL Solicitors. We discussed information which was publicly available.’
Judge Bever said in the 29 June judgment that he had ‘been left with the impression that I have only been made aware of the tip of a large iceberg in terms of Mr Costain’s relationship with CEL and Mr Hampson’ and that ‘I do not accept that Mr Hampson has been open and frank with me in relation to CEL’s relationship with Mr Costain’.
The judge added that Costain had been ‘centre stage’ to the litigation, but that ‘he has not been called upon by CEL to provide a witness statement or to give evidence’ and ‘has very much been left in the background’.
Blanchfield said: ‘The contents of the judgment speak for themselves, the judgment of HHJ Beaver was proven in our favour.’
A spokesman for the law firm Knights, representing Montaldo, said: ‘Mr Montaldo has nothing to add to the judgment which in his view speaks for itself. He is looking forward to putting the matter behind him and continuing with his successful legal career.’
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