British leader Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation on Monday into the role played by former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as an advisor to the bankrupt financial company Greensill. The retired politician sent direct requests for financial assistance on behalf of the company – via text messages and emails – to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak and two other members of the British Government. The newspaper Financial times was the first to point out Cameron's collusion with Australian banker Lex Greensill and his company, specializing in corporate supply chain financing, or what in financial jargon is called “factoring reverse". Greensill was for years the pampered star of the new fintechs (financial technology) in the City of London.
Cameron, the man whom half the country points to as responsible for the Brexit disaster, by promoting a referendum that no one was demanding with the sole purpose of solving the internal war in his party, had opted in recent years for a discreet role. Beyond a few memoirs published at the end of last year, he chose to let the immediate memory of his years in government fade into the public imagination. His private businesses, like other ex-presidents, to considerably increase his personal assets, have taken their toll on him.
"I have had time to reflect on this whole matter in depth," Cameron acknowledged in the first public statement on the scandal issued this Sunday. And there are important lessons to be learned. As a former prime minister, I must accept that communications with the Government need to be carried out through the most formal channels possible, so as not to allow possible misinterpretations ”, he stated.
In 2016, Greensill began to touch the edge of the abyss. An unexpected number of small companies defaulted on their payments and caused losses of more than 45 million euros in the finance company. Most serious, however, was the discovery of the mechanism set up in complicity with Sanjeev Gupta, the so-called "British steel baron," to create a triangle of mutual benefits. Greensill's main activity was to advance its customers' payments to suppliers, but it ended up becoming an unregulated form of financing – the so-called “shadow banking” -. A way to advance money for future contracts. Gupta raised funds through supply contracts with companies in his own conglomerate, which employs more than 35,000 workers. He then allocated the money to those same companies, and from his commitments he generated most of Greensill's inflated income. German regulatory authorities launched an investigation at the beginning of the year, which was joined shortly after by the British regulator.
Cameron, who had used Greensill's services in various public programs during his years at the head of the British Government, was hired as a consultant to the company after leaving Downing Street. "My responsibilities included offering geopolitical advice to the management of the company, helping them in the achievement of new business, giving speeches at their conferences and congresses and contributing to their international expansion plans," the former conservative prime minister has justified in a statement. that he has not convinced anyone and has raised more than one eyebrow between his fellow conservatives and the Labor opposition.
Cameron demanded, through direct texts, Minister Sunak, to help him obtain for Greensill part of the emergency funds that the Bank of England launched during the crisis unleashed by covid-19. “The prime minister has shown a significant interest in this matter,” said a Downing Street spokesman, “and has ordered an investigation to ensure that the government is absolutely transparent in activities of this type, and that the public see for themselves that taxpayers' money is used appropriately ”, he added.
The independent commission that will track Cameron's activities will be chaired by Nigel Boardman, a legal expert who was for years a partner at the international law firm Slaughter and May and is currently a non-executive director of the Ministry of Commerce, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is not yet clear whether he will have the capacity to force the appearance of witnesses in his investigation, but the Government has already made it clear that it will allow him access to all the official documentation that he requires.
The Labor Party has anticipated, shortly after its publication, that it was not satisfied with the explanations given by Cameron in his 1,700-word statement. "Many serious questions have been left unanswered, and we demand that the former prime minister appear before Parliament so that all the information is released," said Rachel Reeves, a spokeswoman for the main opposition party. The harshest in his intervention has been another former Downing Street resident Gordon Brown, who has demanded a tightening of the rules on the practices of the lobbies in the United Kingdom. The spectacle of retired rulers using their prestige and influence to favor private companies and obtain private income "simply sinks politics into disrepute," he said.
Although Greensill never obtained the loans provided by the Bank of England, he did obtain financial assistance through another program launched by the Government to grant credit guarantees to large companies.
With his prompt decision to scrutinize the maneuvers of his former boss and predecessor, Johnson takes particular personal revenge. Cameron accused the current prime minister in his memoirs, For the Record (For the record), published last September, of joining the field of Brexit defenders, in the 2016 referendum, to promote his own political career. "Boris got on the bus (of the campaign in favor of leaving the EU) to travel the whole country, but the truth preferred to leave the truth at home," wrote Cameron.