Boris Johnson’s decision to launch an independent inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal April critics of the prime minister feared that they would have to do a whitewashing, which was designed to take the heat off the government as the increasing allegations of sleaze are faced.
After the long-awaited publication on Thursday, Nigel Boardman’s report immediately placed Labor’s claims on a “classic cover-up”.
It was also based on recommendations – a second report follows – and could not address what could still be the biggest scandal of all: the relationship between Lex Greensill’s company Greensill Capital and GFG, a metal business currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
But the 141-page document nevertheless provides a comprehensive account of how the disgraced Australian financier first went to work in Whitehall almost ten years ago.
Here, the FT Boardman’s findings and the roles that a well-known role characters play in the biggest lobbying scandal for a decade.
Boardman is clear in his belief that it was Jeremy Heywood, head of the civil service, who first brought Greensill to Whitehall and set him up with a desk in the cabinet office, a pass and an Downing Street email address. “My primary link is with Jeremy Heywood,” Greensill said in one 2012 memo.
Greensill and Heywood worked together at Morgan Stanley in the mid-2000s.
The report shows how Greensill was already in contact with the government in 2008 and conveyed the name “Jeremy Heywood at number 10” to a skeptical Treasury official. Three years later, in 2011, Heywood emailed a colleague to argue that Greensill should join the cabinet office.
By the end of 2011, Greensill had provided informal advice to the government on financing the supply chain. When Heywood was advised to refer the appointment to an internal ‘approval board’, the cabinet secretary replied, ‘Of course – even if it’s bureaucracy that has gone crazy!’
Boardman says Heywood and others should have realized that Greensill was building his own supply chain business, creating a clear conflict of interest. “It is unclear why Mr Greensill was allowed under these circumstances to remain an adviser to the government on supply chain financing,” he says.
The report shows how Heywood from 2015 insisted on getting his former colleague an honor, with his office writing that ‘Jeremy still supports and recommends that he be nominated for a CBE rather than an OBE’.
Yet Sue Gray, head of Customs and Ethics in the Cabinet, does not agree: “Lex should remain an OBE, and although we can suggest him for a CBE, it would be outrageous if he got one.” Finally, the CBE was recommended by two separate committees and given in 2017.
The report shows how Greensill quickly made himself at home when he was first in the cabinet and demanded a pass to enter Downing Street – which was approved even though he did not have a security clearance.
He wrote to officials saying he should convene meetings with executives of large companies such as Rolls-Royce and General Dynamics, along with the heads of the CBI and the Bank of England.
Boardman suggests that Greensill “utilized” the access by holding meetings with companies he then adopted as customers – for example, Vodafone. He used his position in Downing Street as a ‘marketing platform’ to help build his new financial finance business in the supply chain against competition from major international banks, the report said.
Greensill was also able to sell the idea of supply chain financing to government departments, but largely reached a stone wall, given its dubious benefits. He introduced only one government scheme – involving pharmacy payments.
The Australian also exaggerated his role. When Downing Street realized that Greensill was calling himself “senior adviser, prime minister’s office” in his email, he was asked by an official to correct it.
Paul Kirby, the then head of the No. 10 policy unit, was skeptical of Greensill’s ideas. But Heywood replied, “Lex gives large amounts of his personal time to HMG (government) and occasionally needs number 10 to accommodate senior business people.”
Heywood told Kirby that Greensill could not possibly have been motivated by personal gain when he was already a rich man.
Greensill Capital given in 2018 Cameron has a large salary (more than $ 1 million) and stock options (at a point that is worth $ 70 million).
This raised the question of whether the former prime minister had been involved in the entry of the Australian banker in Whitehall six years earlier.
According to the Boardman Review, this was not the case: “From the evidence I have seen and heard, Mr Cameron was not responsible for bringing Mr Greensill into government.”
Indeed, the report says that although Cameron announced an initiative to finance the supply chain in late 2012, the prime minister’s “unbalanced” text was in fact written by Greensill himself.
Boardman also addresses Cameron’s manic efforts to persuade ministers and officials in early 2020 to change the rules surrounding Covid-19 loan schemes to the benefit of Greensill Capital, its then employer.
The prime minister said his emails, texts and WhatsApp messages to ministers and officials “were not the right way for a former prime minister to enter into talks with the government”.
Boardman says he “had to consider further the impact of his regular contact with the government during a time of crisis.” Sometimes he also underestimated the nature of his relationship with Greensill Capital while working under the government.
But the report does not adhere to the conclusion of the Treasury Selection Committee last week, which said Cameron was showing a “significant lack of judgment”.
The FT revealed in March that Cameron and Greensill on a camping with controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in early 2020.
Boardman found that Cameron had previously contacted Downing Street to design a breakfast briefing by the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia with Greensill.
Crothers was head of government procurement before joining Greensill Capital. There was an outrage in the spring when it emerged he was ‘double-minded’ – he worked for both Greensill and the Cabinet for three months in 2015.
According to the Boardman Review, it would be ‘unfair’ to criticize this double work, as it had been discussed in advance with ethics chief Gray.
The report, however, warns Crothers for its “powerful” efforts to heavily arm former civil servants to buy Greensill Capital products. “Some of his other behavior toward government departments, including the use of his previous role, was on the side of acceptable behavior.”