Elli Christofi v Barclays Bank Plc: PatC 19 Jan 1998

A bank’s duty of confidentiality did not arise as regards information received but already known pursuant to statutory duty. The claimant’s writ and statement of claim were struck out as disclosing no cause of action. As regards the allegation of an implied duty of confidentiality arising from the relationship of banker and customer, the court held that whether an obligation was to be implied was a matter of law; and that as a matter of law no duty was to be implied in relation to information which the bank had every reason to think that the trustee already had: ‘the duty extends beyond information which is secret. It is clear from the judgment in Tournier’s case [1924] 1 K.B. 461 that the duty extends to information gained during the currency of the account and that it goes beyond the state of the account, and extends to information derived from the account itself.
But the obligation depends on a term implied by law: ‘the duty is a legal one arising out of contract’ (pp. 471-472); ‘the limits and qualifications of the duty of the bank [are] a matter of law’ (p.475). The limits of the duty must be ascertained in accordance with common sense. In modern times, banks have a variety of dealings with persons other than account holders, and it is entirely contrary to the rationale of the rule in Tournier, the privacy of the customer-banker relationship, that a bank should be bound not to inform a trustee in bankruptcy, making legitimate inquiries of the bank about an account in which the bankrupt had a joint interest with his wife, of a fact which any bank would have had every reason to suppose the trustee already knew, namely, that the caution on the matrimonial home had been warned off.’


Lawrence Collins QC


Times 03-Feb-1998, [1998] 1 WLR 1245


CitedTournier v National Provincial and Union Bank of England CA 1924
The court considered the duty of confidentiality owed by a banker to his client. Bankes LJ said: ‘At the present day I think it may be asserted with confidence that the duty is a legal one arising out of contract, and that the duty is not absolute . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromChristofi v Barclays Bank Plc CA 28-Jun-1999
A bank is under no obligation of confidence to its customer so as to prevent it disclosing to another party a fact which was ascertainable from inspection of public registers, namely in this case that a caution against registration having been . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Banking, Intellectual Property

Updated: 11 April 2022; Ref: scu.135909