Greensill lobbying scandal: The questions at the heart of the financier’s interrogation by MPs

There were two questions at the heart of the Treasury Select Committee’s interrogation of Australian financier Lex Greensill.

The first was whether the business model for his firm was ever really a viable entity, or whether it was, as once famously described, a “Ponzi scheme”.

The other was how much taxpayers’ money was put at risk.

These two issues were raised in numerous ways by MPs of all stripes, but not much clarity from Mr Greensill – not least because he said he had been advised by lawyers not to answer specific questions about clients.

This may have been connected to the news that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched an investigation to see if there has been criminal activity involved in the collapse of the company.

Mr Greensill says Greensill Capital collapsed because it was a victim of the pandemic, which increased risks and costs for everyone, and while he made some mistakes along the way, his business was viable.

He claims there will be no losses to the taxpayer.

MPs appeared unconvinced. Labour’s Angela Eagle pointed out Greensill paid out invoices with firms who said they didn’t work with the company, which she said suggested fraud.

He denies fraud, saying the group used current and historical trading data to predict what might happen in the future.

Tory Felicity Buchan posed the question of whether Greensill was in fact engaged in unsecured lending “dressed up” as supply chain finance.

He denied this charge too, saying everything was properly declared to regulators.

Rushanara Ali suggested the firm was a Ponzi scheme that “smacks” of the kind of fraud Bernie Madoff offered.

She also suggested that far from failing in their lobbying efforts, Mr Greensill and David Cameron “did get what [they] wanted” last year – albeit from another arm of government, the British Business Bank.

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He refused to go into “customer-specifics”.

It was a running theme of the questioning – proposition and denial – exemplified in the purest form by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who asked Mr Greensill point-blank: “Are you a fraudster?”

“No I’m not,” he replied.

That now is for others to judge.

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