The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the UK’s most prominent business lobbying organisation with its EU office based in Brussels (30 lobbyists declared in the EU Transparency Register), has been embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal over the past few months. In March 2023, The Guardian reported a sexual harassment complaint made against CBI director-general Tony Danker, with additional allegations made by other staffers. In response, the CBI started an independent investigation, and Danker was replaced as head of the CBI by Matthew Fell, the organization’s UK policy director, on an interim basis.
On April 3, 2023, The Guardian published another report with more than a dozen current and recent women employees of the CBI alleging to have been victims of sexual misconduct, including one instance of rape, independent of the previously reported Danker allegations. The CBI expanded its investigation to include the new allegations and cancelled all future events, including its annual dinner. On April 11, 2023, the business group appointed its former Chief Economist, Rain Newton-Smith, as its new Director General, one month after she had left the CBI to join Barclays.
UK companies terminate their CBI membership
The exodus of top UK businesses comes in the wake of a Guardian report released on Friday stating that a second woman claims she was sexually assaulted by two colleagues from the CBI in an international office. Several major UK companies including Aviva, Phoenix Group, John Lewis, Mastercard, Virgin Media O2, Zurich Insurance Group, Ernst & Young, NatWest, WPP plc, and BMW, terminated their memberships with the CBI on the same day. Additionally, other major members of the CBI, such as Barclays, HSBC, TSB, Lloyds Banking Group, Asda, Meta, Uber, PwC, and many others, have announced that they are halting their activities with the organisation until the investigation is concluded. This morning, the Labour Party cut all ties with CBI.
The CBI has appointed law firm Fox Williams to lead an independent investigation into the allegations and has suspended three employees pending the outcome of the investigation.
CBI represents 190,000 businesses of all sizes and from all sectors. Headquartered in London, CBI has several regional offices around the UK and international offices in Brussels, Beijing, New Delhi and Washington DC. The EU office of CBI opened in Brussels in 1971. It targets the Single Market; EU-UK relations; Digitial Economy; Trade, Employment and Social Policy; Energy and Climate Change; Financial Services and Corporate Governance; Better Regulation and Captial Markets. The EU office’s last meeting with the European Commission was recorded in the transparency register in 2021 on the subject of EU/UK relationship, particularly in financial services.
In a statement, the CBI Board expresses its “profound regret” to the women who were assaulted. It further adds that all policy and membership activity of CBI will be suspended until an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in June. Work and cultural reform will be the “entire and urgent focus of the organisation” over the coming weeks.