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Firms quit or step back from CBI after misconduct


An increasing number of firms have cut their association with CBI (Confederation of British Industry) after the group admitted it failed to sack staff, who sexually harassed female colleagues. It eventually dismissed its director general, Tony Danker, following separate allegations about his conduct.

Danker claimed his sacking was unfair and in an interview with the BBC he said he was being made the “fall guy” for the crisis and that his reputation had been “totally destroyed.” The details he gave about his dismissal prompted a response from CBI president Brian McBride, who told BBC’s Today programme that Danker’s description of events leading to his departure had been “selective.”

The UK’s biggest business lobby group continues to grapple with workplace misconduct allegations that have plunged it into crisis, with firms deserting the group in droves. NatWest, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are among a host of banks and firms in the financial district of London (known as the City) to quit or pause their dealings with the CBI, as companies distance themselves from the scandal-hit lobby group.

While NatWest has ended its membership of the CBI, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley have paused activities with the organisation, according to people familiar with the matter. HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group have also distanced themselves.

Goldman Sachs had already terminated its relationship with CBI, in a move unconnected to recent events. Meanwhile asset manager Schroders has quit the group, while fellow fund giant Fidelity International has said it has decided not to renew its membership.

“At this time we do not feel the CBI is the right organisation to represent our views so we have decided to exit,” a Schroders spokesperson said. A spokesperson for Fidelity International said: “Our CBI membership recently expired and we decided not to renew it in light of the deeply concerning situation.”

Relations between the firms and the CBI have been upended, as the result of an investigation into allegations of the most serious sexual misconduct, which have rocked the organisation and left it facing an uncertain future. The lobby group, which says it represents 190,000 business “voices”, is facing multiple other allegations of sexual misconduct against senior figures.

Insurance giant Aviva has already pulled out of the CBI and fund manager Abrdn is also considering quitting. Fellow insurers Phoenix and Vitality said they would be quitting the CBI, as well the Association of British Insurers, while Zurich has already quit, according to Reuters.

Big Four auditor EY has also resigned its membership. A person close to the Investment Association, the trade body which represents the UK’s £10tn fund management sector, said it is “seriously considering” its membership as a result of the allegations.

Baroness Helena Morrisey – one of the City’s most prominent business women – said the CBI should not survive in its current form. Meanwhile, former cabinet minister for business, Sir Vince Cable said that while his experience of dealing with the CBI was “positive”, he is “not clear any longer what their role is”.

“Big international companies don’t need them, small business is better represented by the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC),” Sir Vince said.

“Maybe the best way forward is to be an umbrella body linking the regional CBI’s where the CBI has real strengths. And possibly merge with the BCC, which has an overlapping role.”

The comments point to an uncertain future for the CBI. The Lord Mayor of London Nicholas Lyons said that businesses would “absolutely need to reconsider” their future relationships with the lobby group if investigations conclude that “institutionalised bad behaviour” has been tolerated. (The writer is our foreign correspondent based in the UK)

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