Business

Editor’s Notes: The IoD must find a way out of its own Game of Thrones

God, what a mess. A major corporate governance crisis has hit the very top of the UK’s leading corporate governance institute.

First, full disclosure: I used to work as head of communications at the Institute of Directors (IoD), and before leaving I overlapped with Lady Barbara Judge by a few weeks. She came in just as I was on my way out. Now, it seems her time at the country’s oldest business organisation is over.

The allegations, many of which are fiercely disputed by Judge and her allies, have been well covered in this newspaper and others. It’s clear that trust has completely broken down on the top floor of the IoD’s Pall Mall headquarters. When the director-general is secretly recording his conversations with the chair (Judge) one can only assume that the IoD’s leadership has descended into a cross between Game of Thrones and House of Cards.

Read more: Institute of Directors chair "steps aside" after misconduct allegations

Questions are circling over whether the IoD, which is supposed to be the gold standard for good corporate governance, has followed the correct procedures during its investigation of allegations made against Judge. The IoD’s internal structure makes the Soviet Union look lean – there are boards and councils in every room – and somewhere amid this web of governance and politics, a poison has taken hold.

The charges against Judge are shocking, but with her deputy on the board, Sir Ken Olisa, describing the investigation as “fatally flawed” and “riddled with errors” one must expect this mess to get uglier before it’s resolved.

Olisa has also observed that the row threatens to bring “disastrous consequences” for the IoD – an assessment with which it is impossible to disagree. The IoD has done tremendous work supporting entrepreneurs and the cause of responsible capitalism. It would be a tragedy, for its staff and members, if it were to collapse under the weight of internal acrimony and division.

Browder's Russia testimony

On the very day that former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal was targeted with a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury, one of Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile critics told British MPs that he believes Russia’s leader wants him dead. UK-based Bill Browder has been a long-standing critic of Putin ever since he fell foul of the Russian authorities in 2005. His fund, Hermitage Capital, operated out of Russia from the mid-90s, before effectively being seized by the Kremlin. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was tortured and killed in a Russian jail after working to expose Kremlin corruption. Browder has campaigned for a Magnitsky Law (freezing the assets of Russians associated with corruption) and the Bill had its third reading in parliament this week. Browder told MPs he believes Russia is trying to “figure out a way they can kill me and get away with it.” It was a chilling testimony, made all the more urgent given the shocking events of this week.

Read more: After five years, Browder is on the verge of securing a UK Magnitsky law

Selmayr's power grab

Imagine if Theresa May had made Nick Timothy (her former chief of staff) the head of the UK Civil Service. This was the point made yesterday by Henry Newman, the former Whitehall advisor who now runs the Open Europe think-tank. Newman was highlighting the Brussels ‘coup’ that saw Martin Selmayr slither from being chief aide to Jean-Claude Juncker into the role of secretary general of the European Commission – the EU’s civil service. It was a grubby power-grab and Newman is right that it shouldn’t go unchallenged.

Read more: Juncker's key aide Selmayr becomes Brussels' top civil servant

Fake pasties

I’m going to stray wildly off patch here and talk about a subject close to my heart: the Cornish pasty. My grandmother makes the finest traditional pasty in the world, so I shall attempt to shield her from the horrifying news that the recent World Pasty Championships awarded a high honour to “a barbecue chicken creation made with sweet potato, courgette, red pepper, sweetcorn and pineapple”. I’m hoping to sink my teeth into the real thing when I head home to Scilly in April.

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