A UK Bank Accidentally Paid Thousands of People Over $175 Million on Christmas

Out of its own reserves.
Ameya Paleja
A Santander branch in Surrey, London. martinrlee/iStock

A subsidiary of Banco Santander from Spain, Santander UK accidentally paid out £130 million pounds ($170 million) to thousands of its customers due to a technical glitch that caused scheduled payments to be conducted twice, The Times reported.

The glitch that impacted over 75,000 transactions has affected over 2,000 commercial and corporate accounts, according to Business Insider. Although the glitch has since been identified and rectified, many people in the U.K., temporarily received a Christmas bonus that they were not expecting at all. The transactions included both, regular payments such as wages as well as one-off payments made to clients that ended up being duplicated due to the glitch.

According to the Business Insider report, wages were paid in duplicate over a period of two days. The second payment, however, was not made from the accounts of the customers but from the reserves, leaving the bank poorer by this amount due to a computer glitch. A spokesperson for the bank speaking to CNN confirmed that none of the other clients were left devoid of any cash in their accounts due to the glitch.

Due to the nature of the payments, many of the transactions resulted in payments made into accounts of other banks, which is likely to make the recovery process a little harder. Unlike cryptocurrency-based transactions though, banks usually have a process to recover monies that have been sent to accounts. According to CNN, the bank has put into action its "bank error recovery process" that enables it to recover the funds from the unintended recipients.

Business Insider reported that a transaction for one of the recipients was reversed on the seventh day after the duplicate deposit was made. The bank will continue to recover the money over the next few days as well. However, there is no confirmation over how long it might take to recover the entire amount or if the amount in its entirety can even be recovered. 

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In 2020, U.S.-based Citibank accidentally transferred out $900 million to lenders of a cosmetic company of which over $500 million was not voluntarily paid back, CNN reported. In 2018, Deutsche Bank sent 26 billion euros to a clearinghouse which was promptly returned.