James Moore: Sir James Crosby had to lose his way at Compass
James Moore is the Independent's Associate Business Editor and writes the Outlook City comment column from Tuesday to Friday. He also has a keen interest in disability issues and when not attempting to further injure himself playing wheelchair basketball.
Tuesday 09 April 2013
Outlook One notable difference between HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland is that the former was far more savvy in matters of PR.
That can be seen from the way the announcement from Sir James Crosby was handled. Just two days after he was outed as the architect of the HBOS disaster by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, Sir James announced that he planned to give up a portion of his pension, and his knighthood, thus sparing David Cameron considerable embarrassment.
Mr Cameron's refusal to push for either step was motivated by the fury of the business lobby after he intervened to ensure the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Fred Goodwin lost his knighthood. It appears that Mr Cameron takes the members of his business advisory group more seriously than he does his own backbench MPs.
Fortunately, for him, the soon-to-be-Mr Crosby rather than Sir James has solved what threatened to become a very difficult problem for the PM when much of the media is distracted by an event of historical significance.
One wonders if Vince Cable will now be persuaded to call off the dogs who have been charged with seeing if there are grounds for banning Sir James as a company director. Not that he has any real reason to be afraid. The chances of anything happening on that front are not high.
In the meantime, don't cry too hard for Sir James. He may appear to be taking the honourable course. But he'll no doubt muddle through comfortably enough on a six-figure sum each year. And, unlike Mr Goodwin, he sold off most of his shares before they became worthless.
He also finally addressed the issue of his position on the board of Compass. The catering company announced that he had decided to step down with immediate effect.
Rightly so, in this case. Sir James was no ordinary non-executive director. At Compass he was the senior independent director.
That position was created in the UK to provide a place for shareholders to go when relations, or communications, with a chairman break down, as sometimes happens if they allow themselves to become too much part of a corporate establishment.
There was a certain irony in a man whose actions ultimately led to shareholders losing the thick end of £40bn at one company being their first port of call if things start to get sticky with the management of another.
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