Lex Greensill says sorry for collapse of lobbying row finance firm

‘To all those affected by this, I am truly sorry’: Greensill boss apologises for the collapse of firm at the heart of lobbying row featuring David Cameron saying he bears ‘complete responsibility’ for problems faced by clients like Liberty Steel

The boss of collapsed finance company Greensill  apologised today and said he takes full responsibility as the City watchdog launched a probe into the firm.

Lex Greensill, whose firm is at the heart of a lobbying row featuring former prime minister David Cameron, told MPs today he was sad about the impact on its 1,000 staff and its clients.

But he sidestepped questions about his relationship with companies like Liberty Steel – which faces an uncertain future – for legal reasons. 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it is formally investigating how two Greensill companies failed, and how one of them was overseen by a company whose licence it piggybacked on to operate in the UK.

Facing MPs for the first time since the explosion of the lobbying scandal earlier this year, Australian banker Mr Greensill said ‘Please understand that I bear complete responsibility for the collapse of Greensill Capital.

Lex Greensill, whose firm is at the heart of a lobbying row featuring former prime minister David Cameron, told MPs today he was sad that 1,000 had lost their jobs with the finance house.

David Cameron ‘s toe-curling barrage of messages to ministers and officials as he lobbied on behalf of Greensill were revealed today.

David Cameron’s toe-curling barrage of messages lobbying ministers 

David Cameron’s toe-curling barrage of messages to ministers and officials as he lobbied on behalf of Greensill were revealed today.

The Treasury Committee has published a full list of the former PM’s contacts after he disclosed them ahead of an evidence session tomorrow.

They show that he fired off an array of texts and emails, some signed ‘Love Dc’ and suggesting meet-ups for ‘elbow bumps’. 

The powerful cross-party committee is investigating the collapse of Greensill Capital and lobbying of the Treasury and Bank of England on its behalf. 

Mr Cameron has denied breaking any lobbying rules, but admitted he should have made approaches in a more formal way.  

The messages revealed today include to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

He also contacted vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi. 

One text message to Mr Gove on April 3 last year acknowledged the minister is ‘manically busy’, adding: ‘But do you have a moment for a word? I am on this number and v free. All good wishes Dc.’

‘I am desperately saddened that more than 1,000 very hard working people have lost their jobs at Greensill. Likewise I take full responsibility for any hardship being felt by our clients and their suppliers, and indeed investors in our programmes.

But at the same time he said the decision of the company’s leading insurer, Tokio Marine, ultimately led to the collapse.

He said that Covid-19 and the actions of authorities in Germany had played a role in the insurance company’s decision.

‘It’s deeply regrettable that we were let down by our leading insurer whose actions assured Greensill’s collapse, and indeed some of our biggest customers.

‘To all of those affected by this. I am truly sorry.’

Separately, FCA boss Nikhil Rathi said that there have been a number of allegations about the circumstances in which Greensill failed, ‘some of which are potentially criminal in nature’.

‘We are also co-operating with counterparts in other UK enforcement and regulatory agencies, as well as authorities in a number of overseas jurisdictions,’ he said in a letter to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, released on Tuesday.

US-based Mirabella Advisers allowed Greensill Capital Securities to sell products here using its license with the FCA.

In March Mirabella ended its relationship with Greensill which had been in place since 2017.

It made Greensill Capital Securities an appointed representative (AR) of Mirabella.

‘A principal firm (in this case, Mirabella) is responsible for ensuring that, on an ongoing basis, its AR complies with the requirements, rules and regulations of the FCA,’ Mr Rathi said.

Greensill collapsed earlier this year and its relationship to David Cameron, who lobbied for the firm, has been thrown into the limelight.

The company’s main business was so-called supply-chain finance, which ensures that suppliers get paid more rapidly by their customers than normal.

Greensill would pay suppliers directly, and then collect the money later from the customer. It made its money by charging a fee that offset the risk of the customer going bust before it could pay.

Greensill’s collapse caused shockwaves among its customers, with worries that some could fail, putting thousands of jobs on the line.

But Greensill also had a product that it wanted to run with the NHS which would – for free – offer to pay nurses and doctors their salary on a daily basis.

It would, Greensill argued, reduce their need for payday loans.

However, FCA notes released on Tuesday show that in 2019 founder Lex Greensill said that the scheme would be free for the NHS, but that it was an ‘add on’ product as ‘they are already making a lot from Greensill contracts’.

Mr Greensill offered the service to 18 other employers as a ‘foot in the door,’ the FCA notes reveal.

At the time FCA executive director strategy and competition Christopher Woolard warned that good innovative ideas can go wrong, but that there could also be upsides.

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