Cameron Pushed to Explain Links to Financier: Greensill Update

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron denied being motivated by personal gain when he lobbied government ministers and Bank of England officials on behalf of collapsed lender Greensill Capital.

Cameron faced lawmakers over his text and email lobbying efforts, which were aimed at convincing U.K. policy makers to include Greensill in a program of state-backed lending.

The former premier is giving oral evidence to the Treasury committee and the public accounts committee, two senior panels of lawmakers. They are both investigating the failure of Greensill, which has now put thousands of U.K. jobs at risk.

Key Developments

Cameron Says Turned to Greensill to Beat Bureaucracy (6:04 p.m.)

Cameron has come under sustained questioning from members of the public accounts committee on why supply chain financing was needed for his government to pay pharmacies on time, rather than simply speeding up government payments.

He replied that there were barriers to making prompt payments from within government. He cited bureaucracy and “some resistance in the Treasury because early payment has a cost to them.”

Cameron said Lex Greensill was brought into government by former top civil servant Jeremy Heywood as an unpaid adviser in 2011, and that he met Greensill “no more than twice” while still prime minister. He also said that Greensill’s firm did not benefit from the pharmacy contract until several years later.

“His firm didn’t take over this contract for a further six years, and it did so in a competitive tender,” Cameron said.

Cameron to Speak to Official Inquiry Next Week (4:40 p.m.)

After Thursday’s two evidence sessions, there’s more to come for Cameron. He told the Treasury committee he’s due next week to speak with the government-commissioned investigation into how Greensill secured U.K. contracts and how the lender’s supply chain financing worked.

The inquiry was commissioned last month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who put corporate lawyer Nigel Boardman in charge. It hasn’t announced any public evidence sessions.

Cameron Says He Could Have Earned More at a Bank (4:25 p.m.)

Despite repeated questioning, Cameron declined to say how much he was paid at Greensill or to give an indication of whether it was more than 1 million pounds ($1.4 million).

He told the committee it was a “generous, big salary” by anyone’s definition, but suggested perhaps he could have earned even more if he’d worked for a big bank.

I Saw No Fraud at Greensill, Cameron Says (4:05 p.m.)

Cameron was asked by Conservative committee member Anthony Browne about Greensill’s activity in potentially issuing loans based upon invoices that did not exist.

Browne asked the former prime minister whether he was concerned that “there was a large amount of fraud going on.”

“I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of that myself directly,” Cameron said.

Cameron Says He’s Paid All Due Tax on Greensill Earnings (4 p.m.)

The inquiry returned to Cameron’s earnings from Greensill, and when pushed by Labour MP Angela Eagle he once again refused to say how much he was paid. He’s already acknowledged earning far more from the lender than he did as prime minister. (See 3 p.m.)

But he was emphatic that he has paid all due tax on his earnings, and insisted that none was offshore.

“Everything I have done I have paid full U.K. tax on,” he said. “Every proper tax is paid, income and capital gains.”

Cameron Knew of Greensill’s Gupta Exposure (3:54 p.m.)

Cameron said of Greensill that before he joined he “did do quite a lot of due diligence and ask a lot of questions, and try to understand the core of what the company was doing.”

While much of what Greensill did was supply chain finance, it also offered some riskier loans to some customers. That has left some investors in Greensill securities potentially facing losses.

Cameron said he knew there was too much exposure to Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, but thought there was a plan to deal with that. Cameron said that Greensill’s large exposure to GFG was not addressed was one of the business’s major problems.

Ex-Leaders Should Exercise Restraint, Cameron Says (3:25 p.m.)

Cameron acknowledged his “persistence” in contacting government ministers and officials to lobby for Greensill, but said it’s “important” to look at the rules. He suggested that in future it may be more appropriate for ex-prime ministers to be more cautious.

“It would be better for an ex-prime minister in the future -- and I will certainly abide by this -- if you’re contacting the government about any commercial issue, and this would be a very rare event, to send one formal letter or one formal email,” he said. “But I think these were exceptional times.”

Cameron Says He Often Signs Off Texts With ‘Love’ (3:05 p.m.)

Cameron was questioned why he finished a text message to Tom Scholar, a top Treasury official who was his former aide, with the sign-off “Love Dc”.

He replied that “anyone I know at all well” receives the sign-off. “I don’t know why; I just do,” Cameron said. “My children tell me I don’t need to sign of text messages at all.”

Cameron also said he met Scholar for drinks a “couple of times” since leaving office.

Cameron Earned More at Greensill Than as PM (3:00 p.m.)

Greensill paid Cameron “far more” than he earned as U.K. prime minister, he told the committee, acknowledging that he held shares in the company. But he also dismissed as “completely absurd” reports that his interest totaled 60 million pounds ($84 million).

“I wanted this business to succeed,” he said. “I was being paid, I had shares, I had an interest in it.”

Asked about his assiduous lobbying for access to one of the Bank of England’s Covid relief schemes in the first half of 2020, Cameron said personal interest “was not what motivated me.”

Cameron Says Greensill Not in Jeopardy at Start of Pandemic (2:45 p.m.)

Lawmakers are now questioning Cameron. He insisted that at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Greensill was in a good financial position. He has previously said that the first he knew of difficulties was in December 2020.

“There was no sense of jeopardy” at the outset of the pandemic, Cameron said. “Greensill had a successful 2019, it was set to have a successful 2020.”

“I wanted this business to succeed,” he said. “I was paid an annual amount, a generous amount, much more than I was paid as prime minister.”

Cameron Makes Contrite Opening Statement (2:35 p.m.)

Cameron opens his testimony with a statement, saying that this session marks a “painful” return to Parliament, which he cals as “a place that I love and respect so much.” Cameron explained his motivations in working for Greensill, and stressed that he abided by all the rules in place on lobbying.

“But rules alone are never enough. We learned that in this place there are so many issues, personal conduct and codes of behavior and how such conduct and behavior appears and can be perceived, these things matter too,” he said. ”I believe there are important lessons to be learned,” Cameron added.

“I completely accept that former prime ministers are in a different position to others because of the office that we held, and the influence that continues to bring.”

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