A DISGRACED former bank chief who used his work email to send sexually explicit messages and discuss illegal drugs has been banned from the financial services industry.

Financial watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the action yesterday against Paul Flowers, who chaired the Co-operative Bank five years after it almost collapsed.

The FCA said his conduct demonstrated a “lack of fitness and propriety required to work in financial services”.

Flowers chaired the Co-op Bank between April 2010 and June 2013, during which time the watchdog said he used his work mobile phone to make inappropriate phone calls to a premium rate chat line in breach of Co-op Group and bank policies.

He also used his work email account “to send and receive sexually explicit and otherwise inappropriate messages, and to discuss illegal drugs” despite having been warned about his previous misconduct.

After stepping down as chair, Flowers was convicted for possession of illegal drugs.

He was chairman of the bank in 2013, when it almost collapsed after revealing a £1.5 billion black hole in its accounts.

Mark Steward, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight said: “The role of chair occupies a unique place of trust and influence.

“The chair is pivotal in setting expectations of a company’s culture, values and behaviours.

“Flowers failed in his duty to lead by example and to meet the high standards of integrity and probity demanded by the role.

“These high standards are what the financial services industry and the wider community rightly expect of its senior individuals.

“Where a chair, or other senior individual, fails to discharge these standards the FCA will hold them to account.”

The watchdog found that Flowers had demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with the FCA’s requirements and standards and with other legal, regulatory and professional requirements.

It believed his disregard for the standards he was expected to meet demonstrated a lack of integrity and that any future involvement by Flowers in the financial services industry risked undermining consumer and market confidence.

The watchdog said its investigation into Flowers had taken longer than expected partly because it had to be thorough, but also it had to wait until other inquiries into the collapse of the bank and the conduct of other executives were under way.

The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in 2016 banned and fined two former Co-op Bank executives from holding senior banking positions.

A new independent review into how the Co-op Bank was supervised between 2008 and 2013 has been launched by the Treasury, which said it had to wait until the FCA’s investigation had finished.

This review will consider the “actions, policies and approach” of the former City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), and the current body, the PRA.

The Co-op Bank merged with the Britannia Building Society in 2009 – a deal that was later deemed responsible for the near collapse of the bank

Five years ago, the Co-op tried and failed to buy 632 branches from the Lloyds Banking Group.

Following the scandal, Flowers was also removed from the list of Methodist Church ministers and stripped of the title reverend.