New questions for former Prime Minister David Cameron over links to crashed Greensill
State-owned bank NatWest handed a contract to a firm with close ties to Lex Greensill – the financier at the centre of a lobbying row engulfing David Cameron – just months after Greensill was appointed as a Government adviser.
NatWest, which is 60 per cent owned by taxpayers, signed the deal in late 2014 under the leadership of Prime Minister Cameron, who later became a paid adviser to the financier’s company Greensill Capital.
The NatWest contract will raise fresh questions over Cameron’s links to the financier’s firm – which collapsed earlier this month.
Ties: Former Prime Minister David Cameron and Lex Greensill, inset, of Greensill Capital
The latest revelation comes amid calls for an investigation after reports last week that Cameron recently met Treasury officials to lobby on behalf of Greensill Capital. London-based Greensill Capital was one of the biggest providers of ‘supply chain’ finance and ‘invoice discounting’, which helps businesses pay their suppliers early.
It went into administration this month after a backer, Credit Suisse, froze funding. Greensill Capital had also been hit by a string of defaults from one of its largest customers, GFG Alliance, founded by steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta.
The collapse brought links between Cameron and Greensill into focus. Lex Greensill was given a CBE in 2017 for ‘services to the economy’. The next year he appointed Cameron as an adviser.
A spokesman for Cameron reportedly told a newspaper at the time that the ex-Prime Minister had ‘huge admiration’ for Greensill, considering his firm to be ‘one of Britain’s many great fintech success stories’. Administrators from Grant Thornton were appointed two weeks ago after the lender fell ‘into severe financial distress’.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that ties between NatWest and the fintech firm Taulia – which had a subsidiary funded by Greensill – date back as far as 2014.
That year, Lex Greensill became one of six leaders appointed by Cameron as ‘new Crown representatives’ to help the Government ‘get value for money’ from contracts.
Just two months later, Greensill Capital formed a partnership with Taulia, a US-based technology company that helped firms pay invoices early. Greensill provided the funds to pay suppliers with Taulia in an exclusive relationship that would remain such until the end of 2019.
In October 2014, Governmentbacked NatWest announced it had struck a deal with Taulia, allowing the bank to refer thousands of business customers through its website to Taulia. The deal raises questions over NatWest’s decision to appoint Taulia – Greensill’s partner firm.
Sources said that, though NatWest is at arm’s length from the Government, there is a risk its biggest shareholder might have some influence on occasion. Taulia said in a statement: ‘Taulia’s relationship with NatWest is independent from its involvement with Greensill Capital. We cannot comment further on our customer relationships.’
A Government spokesperson said that Crown representatives had ‘no influence over the awarding of Government contracts’, adding: ‘We do not intervene in the operational decisions of NatWest, which retains its own management board for such decisions.’
The latest revelation follows scrutiny over a separate deal in 2018 where Greensill and Taulia helped UK public sector bodies speed up invoice payments to pharmacies.
Though this would have saved pharmacies money, a source close to the process said Greensill Capital would have pocketed fees.
Questions have also been raised over Greensill Capital being accredited to dish out loans through the Government’s emergency support schemes to help firms during the pandemic.
According to the Financial Times, Cameron lobbied the Government to increase Greensill Capital’s access to the loan scheme months before its collapse, only to be rebuffed by the Treasury. The close links between Cameron and Greensill have prompted calls for an inquiry.
Dame Margaret Hodge, former chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, told The Mail on Sunday there should be tighter controls on contracts awarded by the Government. She said: ‘It’s not the Conservative Party’s money; it’s taxpayers’ money. It’s all our money. It’s outrageous that this has become a pattern of behaviour. Questions need to be answered.’
Cameron, Greensill and Grant Thornton declined to comment.