The senior civil servant who went on to serve as a director of scandal-hit Greensill Capital started advising the firm while still working in Whitehall, with the approval of the Cabinet Office, according to an official watchdog.
Bill Crothers, who worked in Whitehall for eight years and founded the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), controlling more than £15bn of purchases a year, began advising Greensill in September 2015 while still employed in the civil service.
Records at Companies House show he became a director at Greensill in August 2016, just over eight months after leaving Whitehall in November 2015.
But a newly disclosed letter from the appointments watchdog for former ministers and senior civil servants reveals that Crothers was given approval to act as an adviser to Greensill from September 2015, while still employed in Whitehall.
Greensill is at the centre of a high-profile lobbying scandal after the former prime minister David Cameron, who was a special adviser to the Greensill board and partly paid in share options, was found to have sent texts and emails to ministers as he sought approval for policies that would benefit the lender.
Maandag, 'n independent government investigation was launched into Cameron’s lobbying efforts, and the role that the lender’s founder, Lex Greensill, held as a special adviser in the prime minister’s office during his premiership.
Crothers was the government’s chief commercial officer from 2012 aan 2015, collecting a salary of up to £149,000 a year before leaving for the private sector.
A letter from Eric Pickles, who leads the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), sê: “Crothers and the Cabinet Office have both informed Acoba that he joined Greensill in September 2015, as an adviser to its board, whilst he was still employed as a civil servant. This was agreed by the Cabinet Office under its internal conflicts of interest policy.”
Pickles has demanded to see guidance on the conflicts of interest process. He had previously written to Crothers and the Cabinet Office to ask why Crothers did not seek his watchdog’s advice about his 2016 appointment as a Greensill director.
“The lack of transparency around this part-time employment with Greensill may have left the misleading impression that Mr Crothers had wilfully ignored the obligation to seek advice,” he wrote.
In his letter to Acoba, Crothers confirms he was “given approval to take up a part-time board advisory role with Greensill Capital starting from September 2015, whilst employed as a civil servant”. He said Greensill was then a small business “which did not conduct any business with UK government”. Hy het bygevoeg: “This advisory role was not seen as contentious, and I believe not uncommon.”
Die voog geopenbaar on Tuesday that Australian documents, which detail shareholdings in Greensill’s parent company, show Crothers stood to benefit financially from the lender’s success. He held at least 3,653 shares in 2019, and Greensill Capital’s annual report for 2019 claimed shares issued to employees could be worth about $2,163 each, valuing Crothers’ stake at an estimated $7.9m (£5.7m).
The stake could have been worth much more if Greensill had successfully floated on the stock market at the $7bn valuation being touted by the lender to potential investors laas jaar. In plaas daarvan, the company collapsed into administration in early March, rendering shareholdings worthless and putting thousands of jobs indirectly at risk.
After leaving office, Crothers held at least five meetings with a Whitehall official between 2016 en 2020.
Transparency records show he met the permanent secretary, John Manzoni, wie was in charge of the day-to-day running of the Cabinet Office until last year, in April and December 2016, January and May 2018 en Februarie 2020.
Details about the purpose of these meetings are vague, and information that would have been provided by Manzoni in the transparency documents has described the discussions on “commercial capability”, “stakeholder relationship” and “business issues”. Crothers is not declared as having approached Manzoni on behalf of any private company.
The former civil servant also attended a “private drinks” meeting between the health secretary, Matt Hancock, David Cameron and Lex Greensill in October 2019, according to the Times.
The government was approached for comment.