• Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Xpricewaterhousecoopers; xdeloitte; xkpmg; and the dark side of the accountancy profession (5)

Xpricewaterhousecoopers; xdeloitte; xkpmg; and the dark side of the accountancy profession (6)

Odey firm to be broken up after harassment claims against its founder Hedge fund giant Odey Asset Management (OAM) will be broken up, days after allegations of sexual harassment against its founder emerged.

The business said it would be dismantled and its activities will be transferred to other firms.

“Acting in the best interest of our investors and our staff has continued to be our primary concern over the past few days,” said OAM.

Crispin Odey, who set up the firm in 1991, denies the claims against him.

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He was ousted from the fund management business at the weekend.

Last week, the Financial Times reported that multiple women had accused Mr Odey of misconduct over 25 years, with the latest alleged incident taking place in December 2021.

The prominent financier, who was a major Brexit supporter and Conservative party donor, told the Guardian newspaper that the allegations against him were either untrue or involved consensual relations. He also said that “none of the allegations have been stood up in a courtroom or an investigation”.

Since the reports, OAM has struggled to rebuild trust with investors and a number of major banks are understood to have cut ties with the firm. On Thursday, OAM said it was now “in advanced discussions for rehousing funds and transferring certain fund management activities and individuals to other asset managers”.

The break-up will affect the majority of the $4.4bn (£3.5bn) in assets managed by OAM.

Another $600m of investor money is still held in funds formerly run by Mr Odey. It is unclear what will happen to those investments. Mr Odey also has around $600m of his own money invested in the firm. One of those funds, the Odey Swan Fund, is already being liquidated after investors began to withdraw money.

The financier is well known in the City for having made large sums of money betting against the UK pound and British government bonds in recent years.

In 2020, Mr Odey was accused of assaulting a female investment banker at his London home in 1998, but was cleared of indecent assault after a trial.

Following the case, his company reportedly undertook an internal investigation into the financier’s behaviour and handed its findings to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City watchdog.

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OAM told the regulator at the time that it had decided to keep Mr Odey on as chief executive after giving him a “final written warning” for inappropriate behaviour. However, on Wednesday, MPs on the Treasury Committee wrote to the FCA asking whether it had been proactive enough in its oversight of the fund.

It followed reports that the watchdog had been investigating the company since 2021.

The FCA has been asked to reveal what it knew about the claims against Mr Odey and what action it took, going back five years.

The MPs have given it until 5 July to respond.

A spokesperson for the FCA said: “We understand the Treasury Committee’s interest in this and we’ll of course reply shortly.” CBI boss Tony Danker ‘shocked’ at firing over misconduct claims.

“Britain’s most powerful business lobby group was on Tuesday facing the biggest crisis in its 58-year history when it was forced to sack its boss over “devastating” workplace misconduct complaints.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents around 190,000 businesses said it has dismissed its director-general Tony Danker with immediate effect after the first phase of an independent investigation into the allegations by law firm Fox Williams.

According to reports, Danker sent a female employee a barrage of messages, some featuring sexually suggestive language, over more than a year.

She considered the contact to be sexual harassment, it was reported at the time. In a statement Mr Danker claimed allegations against him were “distorted” but that he recognised he “unintentionally made a number of colleagues feel uncomfortable”. He added that he was sacked before being allowed to defend himself.

“I recognise the intense publicity the CBI has suffered following the revelations of awful events that occurred before my time in office,” he said.

“I was appalled to learn about them for the first time last week. I was nevertheless shocked to learn this morning that I had been dismissed from the CBI, instead of being invited to put my position forward as was originally confirmed.

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“Many of the allegations against me have been distorted, but I recognise that I unintentionally made a number of colleagues feel uncomfortable and I am truly sorry about that.”

Fox Williams has also launched a massive overhaul of the culture of the CBI – which describes itself as Britain’s “premier business organisation” – in a bid to salvage its reputation.

The complaints against Danker, 51, who was appointed to the role in November 2020, first came to light in January. He agreed to step aside when new concerns were raised in early March.

In a strongly worded statement the CBI said it had become clear that “his own conduct fell short of that expected of the Director General.”

However it added that the dismissal was not related to more recent claims about sexual misconduct and drug taking by senior CBI figures that were published by the Guardian last week.

Three other CBI employees are now suspended “pending further investigations.” The CBI said it was liaising with the police and “has made clear its intention to cooperate fully with any police investigations.”

The allegations have been hugely damaging for the reputation of a body set up to lobby on behalf of business whose chief has frequent meetings with the Prime Minister and Chancellor. Last month senior Labour MP Lisa Nandy dropped out of a CBI event in the wake of the latest headlines.

Danker was said to be stunned by the CBI’s decision to dismiss him with immediate effect and no redundancy package.

He has been replaced by former CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith, who is currently managing director, strategy and policy, sustainability and ESG at Barclays.

It has appointed CBI board member Jill Ader, a recent global chair of head-hunters Egon Zehnder, to “oversee a root-and-branch review of our culture, governance and processes.” The CBI also said it “will create a new, elevated position of Chief People Officer which will sit on our executive committee.”

In its statement, the CBI said it “exists to help British business flourish. This is a privilege and responsibility which we take extremely seriously and cannot take for granted.

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“We represent our members not just in how we advocate for them, but also through our values as an organisation. It means we must be a place where colleagues are safe, valued and respected, and where there is zero tolerance for behaviour that falls short of those expectations.”

Danker started his career at management consultants McKinsey & Company and later worked as a policy adviser at the Cabinet office and the Treasury. He was also Chief Strategy Officer, at Guardian News & Media. Before joining the CBI he was the first CEO of Be the Business, set up by a group of FTSE-100 Chairmen.”