American intelligence agencies say ordered the killing. In a statement made in April, Mr. Cameron insisted that he took the opportunity to raise human rights issues.

On Thursday, Mr. Cameron explained his barrage of texts as a consequence of the urgency of the situation but conceded that, with hindsight, he should have made his approaches by formal letters or emails. He believed Greensill was offering good ideas to the government, Mr. Cameron said, denying that his lobbying was motivated by his financial interest.

Greensill pitched itself as an intermediary between the government and payees, offering to accelerate payments to businesses and individuals. In the case of individuals, Mr. Cameron defended the practice as a sort of populist alternative for some people to usurious payday-lending schemes. But the bulk of the lending was aimed at companies doing business with the government, and critics always questioned the wisdom of using an outside finance firm rather than simply speeding up government payments.

Professor Bale said that it was hard to think of any similarly overt lobbying of ministers from a former prime minister, not even Tony Blair, who was much criticized for his consultancy work.

“It is illustrative of a decline in standards because it used to be the case that this kind of thing ‘wasn’t done’ — and now it is,” Professor Bale said. The silver lining, he added, was that “the embarrassment caused to David Cameron might put some of his successors off.”

View Source

Showing Little Contrition, David Cameron Faces U.K. Parliament in Lobbying Scandal

LONDON — Not many former British prime ministers adapt easily to life after 10 Downing Street or gain the respect afforded to some ex-leaders around the world.

But few have fallen as far and as fast as David Cameron, who on Thursday made his first public appearance since a lobbying scandal cast a harsh light on his character and judgment, as well as the shifting morals of British public life.

Mr. Cameron’s embarrassment is particularly surprising because more than a decade ago and before becoming prime minister, he himself had warned that a crisis over lobbying was the “next big scandal waiting to happen” following an outcry over lawmakers’ expenses.

“We all know how it works,” Mr. Cameron said in a speech in 2010. “The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.”

as did Greensill Capital, whose financial difficulties endangered thousands of jobs, prompting a series of inquiries.

During Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Cameron kept his cool and rejected as “absurd” reports that he stood to make tens of millions of dollars from options on Greensill shares. Refusing to give details he nonetheless conceded that he had a “serious economic interest” in its success, was paid “generously” and earned more than his previous salary as prime minister. Nor did he deny using the company’s private jet to fly to his vacation home in Cornwall.

The release of messages earlier this week revealed the extent to which the ex-prime minister, who resigned in 2016, was willing to ingratiate himself with former staff and colleagues — including one with whom he had fallen out spectacularly a few years earlier.

“I know you are manically busy — and doing a great job,” wrote Mr. Cameron to Michael Gove, a senior cabinet minister in one text stressing that he was “on this number and v free.”

and wrote: “As for Michael, one quality shone through: disloyalty.”

In the messages sent last year, Mr. Cameron also told the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, he was “doing a great job” — and made sure that senior officials knew about his contacts with Mr. Sunak.

“See you with Rishi’s for an elbow bump or foot tap. Love Dc,” Mr. Cameron signed off one message to Tom Scholar, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury.

in the right-leaning Daily Telegraph. She seemed to be referring to allegations Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke electoral rules in the underhanded way he was said to have financed a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Mr. Cameron resigned after taking the fatal gamble that he could persuade Britons to vote against Brexit in the 2016 referendum, leaving himself unexpectedly out of a job.

American intelligence agencies say ordered the killing. In a statement made in April Mr. Cameron insisted that he took the opportunity to raise human rights issues.

On Thursday, Mr. Cameron explained his barrage of texts as a consequence of the urgency of the situation but conceded that, with hindsight, he should have made his approaches by formal letters or emails. He believed Greensill was offering good ideas to the government, Mr. Cameron said, denying that his lobbying was motivated his by financial interest.

Greensill pitched itself as an intermediary between the government and payees, offering to accelerate payments to businesses and individuals. In the case of individuals, Mr. Cameron defended the practice as a sort of populist alternative for some people to usurious payday-lending schemes. But the bulk of the lending was aimed at companies doing business with the government, and critics always questioned the wisdom of using an outside finance firm rather than simply speeding up government payments.

Professor Bale said that it was hard to think of any similarly overt lobbying of ministers from a former prime minister, not even Tony Blair, who was much criticized for his consultancy work.

“It is illustrative of a decline in standards because it used to be the case that this kind of thing ‘wasn’t done’ — and now it is,” Professor Bale said. The silver lining, he added, was that “the embarrassment caused to David Cameron might put some of his successors off.”

View Source

Greensill’s Collapse Inquiry and David Cameron’s Lobbying

He said he first became concerned about his company’s financial health in December, when a German regulatory agency said a bank that Greensill Capital had acquired needed to reduce its exposure to one customer.

The request “was going to be impossible for us to comply with,” Mr. Greensill said.

Greensill’s business model has raised concerns and even accusations of fraud. Its main offering was supply chain finance, in which a middleman advances payments to suppliers and then the money is repaid by the buyer. It’s a long-established kind of financing, usually provided by banks, but Greensill added a twist. It packaged the invoices and other receivables by the suppliers into assets that were then sold to investors through funds. The company also provided financing to companies based on “future receivables,” which were based on transactions that hadn’t yet happened.

In Tuesday’s hearing, held virtually, Mr. Greensill strongly defended the business model.

“Every asset we ever sold was correctly described,” he said, adding that all investors would have had complete information about what they were buying.

But he made a small admission to failures he had made. He told lawmakers that one of his company’s innovations was taking information directly from company accounts to make fast lending decisions. This “absolutely is the future but the way that I did it definitely had flaws,” he said without specifying what they were.

In March, as the insurance coverage came to an end, Credit Suisse shut down $10 billion worth of supply chain finance funds it sold that were put together by Greensill. The Swiss bank has returned just under half the amount to investors but is still exposed to billions of dollars in potential losses.

“I bear complete responsibility for the collapse of Greensill Capital,” Mr. Greensill said, adding that he was “desperately saddened” that more than 1,000 of his employees had lost their jobs. But he added: “It’s deeply regrettable we were let down by our leading insurer, whose actions assured Greensill’s collapse.”

The Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s chief financial regulator, said in a letter to the committee that it was “formally investigating” Greensill because some of the allegations about its failure are “potentially criminal in nature.” The authority is also working with regulators in Germany, Australia and Switzerland, Nikhil Rathi, the regulator’s chief executive, wrote.

View Source

Hurt by Losses, Credit Suisse Faces Reckoning Under New Chairman

But risk problems lingered under the surface: The departure of longtime bankers during his tenure had cost Credit Suisse valuable institutional knowledge, and the bank had built an increased zeal for working with up-and-comers, like Luckin Coffee and Greensill.

In finance, risk management — the ability to take into account a sometimes-volatile mix of bank positions, market activities, assets and liabilities, and reputational and technological concerns to foresee potential losses — is a crucial skill.

But the bank’s approach has been extremely technical, said Arturo Bris, a professor of finance at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. An overreliance on calculation can be a problem if those in charge aren’t taking a holistic view.

“Most of these failures have much more to do with human mistakes,” he said. “I don’t think they’re good risk managers.”

Consider the Archegos collapse: The prime brokerage head of risk who oversaw Credit Suisse’s dealings with Archegos had once handled the bank’s sales relationship with the firm. Above him was a chief risk officer whose background was in finance and compliance — not risk.

Credit Suisse has held more than a half-dozen executives responsible for its recent stumbles. The last day for Brian Chin, the chief executive of the investment bank, was Friday. Lara Warner, the chief risk and compliance officer, already departed. And then there was the departure of Mr. Gottschling, the board’s risk committee leader, who did not seek re-election at the annual meeting.

Now Mr. Horta-Osório will have to figure out whether Credit Suisse can steady its investment bank with personnel changes, or if a more serious makeover is in order.

If he chooses to make big changes, he may have to move swiftly.

“Shareholders and employees cannot wait for months for a new strategy,” said Manuel Ammann, a professor at the Swiss Institute for Banking and Finance at the University of St. Gallen. “They need to deliver fast.”

Anupreeta Das contributed reporting.

View Source

‘It’s a Paper Tiger.’ Britain’s Lobby Laws Under Fire as Johnson Fights ‘Sleaze’ Label

LONDON — Still riding high from Britain’s successful vaccine rollout and a politically shrewd campaign to kill off a proposed European soccer super league, Prime Minister Boris Johnson now confronts thorny questions about how he and other senior officials have dealt with efforts to lobby the government.

For a politician who gleefully defies convention and rarely plays by the rules, it amounts to a return to normality.

The latest questions involve text messages that Mr. Johnson traded with a wealthy British businessman, James Dyson, over his plan to manufacture ventilators in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The story took a juicy turn on Friday after British papers reported that the messages were leaked by Mr. Johnson’s disgruntled former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

On Friday, Mr. Cummings fired back, writing on his personal blog that he did not have the text messages that were leaked, though he did have copies of other texts between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Dyson. He also claimed that Downing Street falsely accused him of leaking details about a decision to impose a lockdown last fall.

Greensill Capital, that was seeking loans from the British government.

The government rebuffed the requests, but Mr. Cameron’s level of access — and the fact that he did not break any laws — alarmed critics, who said it revealed the inadequacy of the rules governing lobbying by former officials. The same is true, they said, of the code of conduct for the prime minister and his cabinet members.

“It’s a paper tiger system,” said Jill Rutter, a former civil servant who is now a senior research fellow at the U.K. in a Changing Europe, a think tank based in London. “If anyone wants to push it, it falls over in a heap.”

The guidelines on civil servants, she said, needed to be updated as the government has recruited more people with business skills, who tend to rotate in an out of government jobs. The Ministerial Code, which sets out standards of conduct, is a toothless document that says nothing about lobbying, she said, and can be rewritten or discarded by the prime minister.

Some analysts drew a distinction between the Greensill affair and Mr. Johnson’s texts with Mr. Dyson. The government had pressed his company, which is based in Singapore and is known for its high-end vacuums, to produce ventilators to avert a shortfall in hospitals overrun with Covid patients. Mr. Dyson agreed, at some cost to the company, but wanted to make sure that employees who moved to Britain to carry out the job would not be penalized by the tax laws.

“Dyson was reasonable in asking that his team not be disadvantaged by doing that in the emergency,” said Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government, a think tank in London. “What is questionable is the ease of access to the P.M. it revealed, and how he has declined to follow the normal practice of changing phones in office.”

Holding on to his cellphone — and using it to send WhatsApp messages to a pro-Brexit businessman — is hardly the only way Mr. Johnson has flouted convention. After his election victory in 2019, he and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, vacationed on the chic Caribbean island of Mustique. Mr. Johnson claimed another wealthy businessman picked up the tab of £15,000 ($20,785), which the businessman denied.

The opposition Labour Party has seized on the allegations of cronyism to paint a portrait of a Conservative government awash in corruption. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, hammered Mr. Johnson in Parliament for what his party considers a pattern of dubious behavior, including handing out lucrative contracts for protective medical equipment to well-connected firms.

“Sleaze, sleaze, sleaze,” Mr. Starmer thundered, “and it’s all on his watch.”

How much these scandals will hurt Mr. Johnson is another question. By now, analysts said, his peccadilloes are so well established that little will change public views of him. The Conservative Party has widened its lead over Labour in recent polls, as the government has reaped credit for the vaccine rollout. And Mr. Johnson’s opposition to the soccer Super League burnished his populist credentials.

But Professor Bale said that as the disclosures accumulate, they can have a “snowball effect.” Prime Minister John Major, Mr. Johnson’s 1990s forebear, enjoyed a reputation as an honest politician. A string of scandals involving members of his government and the Conservative Party eventually ravaged that reputation.

The changing political environment may have played a role in Downing Street’s decision to abandon a plan to hold White House-style televised briefings. Mr. Johnson’s aides had billed the briefings as proof of the government’s transparency and spent £2.6 million ($3.5 million) to build a wood-paneled briefing room.

But earlier this week, the sessions were quietly shelved. Allegra Stratton, the press secretary hired to go before the cameras, was reassigned to be the spokeswoman for the United Nations’ climate change conference, which Britain is hosting in Glasgow in November. Officials said Mr. Johnson would still use the briefing room for his own encounters with the press.

If his most recent news conference is any indication, those may become scratchier. On Monday, a reporter asked Mr. Johnson whether he had acted with “honesty and integrity” in his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, an American woman who claims to have had an affair with Mr. Johnson when he was mayor of London.

“Yes,” he replied tersely.

Alastair Campbell, who served as press secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the political dynamic had changed since Mr. Johnson’s aides conceived the idea of televised briefings last fall. Then, during the depths of the pandemic, press criticism of the government was restrained by the sense of national crisis.

“Its arrival has coincided with a time when, finally, a few journalists are starting to show a little more robustness,” Mr. Campbell said. “The Cameron-Greensill story has unleashed untapped concern at the nature of the governing party.”

View Source

Credit Suisse reports a loss as regulators open an investigation.

Credit Suisse said on Thursday that it suffered a loss in the first quarter stemming from loans it made to the collapsed investment fund Archegos Capital Management, a debacle that has prompted Switzerland’s financial regulator to investigate whether the bank was doing a poor job monitoring the riskiness of its investments.

The loss of 252 million Swiss francs, about $275 million, from January through March came after a loss of 4.4 billion francs from Archegos that wiped out a big increase in revenue. Credit Suisse also said on Thursday that it had sold bonds to investors to raise $2 billion to shore up its capital.

The bank expects additional losses from Archegos of about $655 million as it finishes winding down its exposure to the firm, Thomas Gottstein, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, said during a conference call with reporters Thursday.

The bank, based in Zurich, has suffered a series of calamities this year that have severely damaged its reputation and finances. Swiss regulators are also investigating a spying scandal and Credit Suisse’s sale of $10 billion in funds packaged by Greensill Capital. The funds were based on financing provided to companies, many of which had low credit ratings or were not rated at all. Greensill collapsed in March, and its ties to former Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain have caused a political scandal.

Finma, said it would “investigate in particular possible shortcomings in risk management” at Credit Suisse. Finma also said it would “continue to exchange information with the competent authorities in the U.K. and the U.S.A.”

The Wall Street Journal that Credit Suisse’s exposure to Archegos had reached more than $20 billion before the fund collapsed in late March. Mr. Gottstein conceded that Credit Suisse was one of the banks most exposed to Archegos.

The quarterly loss, which Mr. Gottstein described as “unacceptable,” compared with a profit of 1.3 billion francs in the first quarter of 2020.

View Source

David Cameron Faces Inquiry Into His Dealings With Greensill

LONDON — David Cameron, a former British prime minister, is to face a formal investigation into his business dealings after revelations that he lobbied former colleagues on behalf of an Anglo-Australian finance firm.

Downing Street announced the review on Monday after weeks of publicity about claims that Mr. Cameron, who stepped down as prime minister in 2016, had approached cabinet ministers on behalf of the firm, Greensill Capital, which has now collapsed.

Mr. Cameron does not appear to have broken any rules, partly because he was employed by Greensill and not as a professional lobbyist.

However, after weeks of silence, Mr. Cameron issued a statement on Sunday in which he conceded that, while his behavior had been in line with codes of conduct and government rules, he had made mistakes.

“I have reflected on this at length. There are important lessons to be learned,” he wrote in the lengthy statement. “As a former prime minister, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.”

View Source

David Cameron Comes Under the Spotlight for His Business Dealings

LONDON — Until last month, David Cameron was known for one big thing: calling the referendum in June 2016 that produced Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union and triggered a political earthquake that toppled him as prime minister.

Now, Mr. Cameron is in the headlines for something else: the spectacular collapse of a high-flying Anglo-Australian finance firm. His lobbying on behalf of the firm, Greensill Capital, does not appear to have violated any laws, but it has added another blot to an already checkered legacy.

Greensill’s access to senior British officials — aided by Mr. Cameron, who worked for the firm — has set off a noisy debate about the rules on lobbying by former leaders; critics say they are woefully inadequate. It has also turned a fresh spotlight on a recurring theme in Britain: the challenging after-lives of British prime ministers.

From Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair, occupants of 10 Downing Street have often struggled after leaving office, an abrupt transition to private life that leaves them without the trappings of power, no clear public role, and little financial support. For politicians used to privilege and influence, analysts said, it can lead to trouble.

miscalculation on Brexit — he does not arouse the hostility that many in Britain still feel toward Mr. Blair over his backing of the Iraq war. Much of the media coverage has portrayed Mr. Cameron as a decent man guilty of poor judgment.

Ms. Maddox said his case underscored that “Britain should do more to help prime ministers forge a useful life afterward.”

Unlike American ex-presidents, who get taxpayer funded offices and can busy themselves building their presidential libraries, prime ministers have little in the way of a soft landing after they leave office. The rough-and-tumble nature of British politics means that many are defenestrated — one moment, at the helm of a nuclear state; the next, exiled to the parliamentary backbenches.

Mr. Cameron announced his resignation hours after Britons voted narrowly to leave the European Union, an outcome he campaigned against. At his last appearance in Parliament, he declared, “I was the future once,” a rueful play on a jibe he once aimed at Mr. Blair, when Mr. Cameron was the rising leader of the Conservatives and Mr. Blair a Labour prime minister in the twilight of his career.

“When you’re in politics, every day is a thrill or a spill,” said Simon Jenkins, a columnist at the Guardian. “Then you’re out, almost invariably because of a great mistake. You’ve got nothing to do, and nothing you can do.”

Only 49 years old when he left office, Mr. Cameron wrote a memoir, for which he was paid a reported advance of 800,000 pounds ($1.1 million). He joined several boards and became the president of an Alzheimer’s charity. He plays tennis regularly at a club near his house in West London. In 2017, Mr. Cameron’s wife, Samantha, started her own women’s fashion business.

A well-pedigreed graduate of Eton and Oxford, whose father was a stockbroker, Mr. Cameron is wealthy by conventional yardsticks. But his fortune is less than that of Mr. Blair, who amassed real estate and established a lucrative consulting business. Mr. Blair’s money-raising activities drew criticism as well, especially his work on behalf of the repressive government of Kazakhstan.

Mr. Cameron’s friends have described him as thriving on the speaking circuit and not hung up about his financial circumstances. In “Diary of an MP’s Wife,” a gossipy account of Conservative Party social circles by Sasha Swire, the wife of a former Conservative lawmaker, Hugo Swire, Ms. Swire wrote that in 2017, Samantha’s business was “taking off and Dave is making loads of money.”

“He says every time he looks for a loophole to stash it away, he realizes that George and he closed it, and laughs,” Ms. Swire added, referring to George Osborne, who was Mr. Cameron’s chancellor of the Exchequer.

Ex-prime ministers, however, have far less earning power than ex-presidents. Barack and Michelle Obama signed a $65 million multi-book deal with Penguin Random House and earned millions more in a production deal with Netflix. Bill and Hillary Clinton earned $139 million from 2007 to 2014, mostly from speeches and books. George W. Bush has also earned tens of millions from speeches.

Like presidents, prime ministers become accustomed to mingling with extremely wealthy people, Mr. Jenkins said, leading them to question “why they’re an ex-prime minister when they could have been a wealthy tycoon.”

Not everyone who vacates Downing Street has struggled. John Major, Ms. Maddox said, has arguably been more successful as an elder-statesman commentator than he was in office. Theresa May, who succeeded Mr. Cameron and resigned in 2019 after her efforts to strike a Brexit deal failed, stayed on in Parliament as a Conservative backbencher and has weighed in on debates at key moments.

“It’s a rightly informal system here,” said Charles Moore, the author of a biography of Mrs. Thatcher. “If you cannot command a majority in the Commons, you’re out. That is democratic, and you should then, with a little help over the immediate transition, make your own way in the world.”

View Source

Greensill Capital: The Collapse of a Company Built on Debt

LONDON — The courthouse should have already been closed for the day.

At a hearing that began at 5 p.m. on March 1, lawyers for Greensill Capital desperately argued before a judge in Sydney, Australia, that the firm’s insurers should be ordered to extend policies set to expire at midnight. Greensill Capital needed the insurance to back $4.6 billion it was owed by businesses around the world, and without it 50,000 jobs would be in jeopardy, they said.

The judge said no; the company had waited too long to bring the matter to court. A week later, Greensill Capital — valued at $3.5 billion less than two years ago — filed for bankruptcy in London. An international firm with 16 offices around the world, from Singapore to London to Bogotá, was insolvent.

Greensill’s dazzlingly fast failure is one of the most spectacular collapses of a global finance firm in over a decade. It has entangled SoftBank and Credit Suisse and threatens the business empire of the British steel tycoon, Sanjeev Gupta, who employs 35,000 workers throughout the world. Greensill’s problems extend to the United States, where the governor of West Virginia and his coal mining company have sued Greensill Capital for “a continuous and profitable fraud” over $850 million in loans.

At the center of it is Lex Greensill, an Australian farmer-turned-banker, who in 2011 founded his company in London as a solution to a problem: Companies want to wait as long as possible before paying for their supplies, while the companies making the supplies need their cash as soon as possible.

The Australian newspaper that he did the same for President Barack Obama in the United States.

Eventually, Mr. Cameron would become an adviser to Greensill. Julie Bishop, Australia’s former foreign minister, also joined the company as an adviser.

Greensill Capital’s defining year was 2019, when SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the $100 billion investment vehicle built to make huge bets on disruptive technology companies, invested $1.5 billion. On the day the first of two SoftBank investments was announced, Mr. Greensill told Bloomberg TV that his company would have “multiple opportunities” to work with SoftBank and the other companies in their portfolio.

Mr. Greensill had become a billionaire.

Carillion in 2018 and the Spanish renewable energy company Abengoa, which filed for insolvency in February. Abengoa, an early customer of Greensill, narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 2015 when its huge debt load — billions of euros — was revealed.

Regulators, auditors and ratings agencies have grown concerned about the lack of transparency that can make company balance sheets look stronger than they are. In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission asked Coca-Cola to provide more details about whether it was using supply chain finance after noticing an increase in its account payables of $1.1 billion.

After pleas from accounting companies, the rules might be tightened in the United States. In October, the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board said it would start developing stronger disclosure requirements, though two months later, an international accounting board decided not to do the same.

For Greensill Capital, signs of trouble began appearing in 2018, the year before SoftBank made its big investments.

GAM, the Swiss asset manager, rocked the London financial community when it suspended one of its top fund managers, Tim Haywood. He later lost his job for “gross misconduct,” Bloomberg reported, after an internal investigation raised questions about investments he made in companies tied to Mr. Gupta, who was fast-becoming a steel and metals tycoon. The middleman in the deals, Bloomberg said, was Mr. Greensill.

The next year, Mr. Greensill’s debt funds were attracting unusual interest from SoftBank. Even as the Vision Fund was investing in Greensill, a different arm of SoftBank poured hundreds of millions into the Credit Suisse funds, according to people with knowledge of the transactions. That arrangement put SoftBank in a complex position: One division was Greensill’s largest shareholder and another was a lender to Greensill, via the Credit Suisse funds.

BaFin said it had uncovered evidence that assets linked to Mr. Gupta listed on the bank’s balance sheet did not exist.

insolvency proceedings for Greensill Bank.

an 18 million euro state-backed loan in December from Greensill Bank. But two days later, the bank abruptly pulled back the funds, said Jean-Philippe Juin, a member of the Confédération Générale du Travail labor union representing the factory, where 600 people work.

While GFG said it had “strong cash flows” across the group, the workers at the Poitou plant were warned last week that there might not be enough money to pay their salaries for March, Mr. Juin said.

“Mr. Gupta presented himself to us as a savior, with hopeful words and many promises,” Mr. Juin said. “In the end, he turned out to be an empty shell.”

Michael J. de la Merced, Stanley Reed, Matthew Goldstein and Raphael Minder contributed reporting.

View Source