Former British Prime Minister David Cameron has admitted to making mistakes in his government’s lobbying for Greensill Capital as he tried to distance himself from the controversy over the financial group’s collapse.
In his first public comments on the case, Cameron said on Sunday he was right to push for Greensill to have access to a Bank of England Covid-19 loan program, but admits it was. . wrong to do it by texting Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor.
“There are important lessons to be learned,” he said in a written statement. “As a former Prime Minister, I accept that communications with the government should only be done through the most formal channels, so that there is no room for misinterpretation.”
Cameron has also tried to distance himself from the collapse of the company created by Australian financier Lex Greensill and the group’s loans to the GFG metals business led by Sanjeev Gupta.
The loans to Gupta from Greensill Capital which were subsequently sold to Credit Suisse investors were made on the basis of invoices which raised suspicions of fraud, the FT revealed last week.
“It’s important to understand that I was not on the board of directors of Greensill Capital, nor was I a member of the risk or credit committees,” Cameron said. “I played no role in the decisions to grant credit or in the conditions of granting this credit to GFG or to any other client.”
Cameron has also distanced himself from the decision to bring the founder of Greensill back to the heart of government when he was Prime Minister responsible for providing finance to companies in the government supply chain.
“Lex Greensill was brought in to work with government by former cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood in 2011,” Cameron said. “He was not a political member, but was part of the public service’s drive to improve government efficiency.”
“The truth is, I had very little to do with Lex Greensill at this point – if I remember correctly, I met him at most twice during my tenure as Prime Minister,” Cameron said. “The idea of working for Greensill was never raised, nor considered by me, long after I left.”
Cameron’s critics, including Labor MPs, say he abused his position as former prime minister to try to get preferential treatment for Greensill.
Some have suggested his lobbying for the company was motivated by the prospect of a huge payout of perhaps £ 60million. “Part of my compensation was in the form of a stock award,” Cameron said. “Their value was far from close to the amount speculated in the press.” These options are now worthless.
“I was not a director of the company and I was not involved in the management supervision or in the day-to-day management of the company. I was hired to work for the company for 25 days a year, ”he said.
He said he was right to put pressure on the Treasury since Greensill wanted the funds to flow to small businesses struggling with the Covid crisis, and texting the Chancellor in the midst of the crisis seemed appropriate at the time. .
Cameron previously declined to comment on his role at Greensill Capital, which collapsed on March 8, despite mounting criticism of his fintech lobbying activities.
His Sunday comments closely reflect the views reported by the Financial Times last week as having been conveyed in Cameron’s remarks to friends.
The former prime minister became a company adviser in 2018 and has continued to pressure Tory ministers – including Sunak – using text messages to private cell phone numbers.
He tried unsuccessfully to persuade Sunak to admit Greensill to a Bank of England Covid-19 loan scheme, but Labor says the company has been granted special access to ministers and officials due to lobbying from Cameron.
Greensill secured nine meetings with Charles Roxburgh, the Treasury’s second-highest official, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, before the company’s attempt to join the BoE’s agenda was rejected.
Cameron says he hasn’t broken any rules. The Registrar of Consulting Lobbyists, the industry watchdog, said the former prime minister was not covered by his rules because he was an employee of Greensill and not a third-party lobbyist.