New D-G

Danker fired as Newton-Smith returns to CBI

New D-G: Rain Newton-Smith

The CBI has fired Tony Danker, its director-general, and announced that Rain Newton-Smith will return to the organisation to replace him.

Three other CBI employees have also been suspended “pending further investigation into a number of ongoing allegations”, it said.

It added that the group is “liaising with the police and has made clear its intention to co-operate fully with any police investigations”.

Mr Danker stepped aside last month while an investigation was launched into allegations of misconduct which has since spread to other members of the business lobby group, following revelations in The Guardian. He has apologised and said his behaviour was “completely unintentional”. 

The scandal led to a number of companies reviewing their membership and at least two government departments suspended engagement.

Ms Newton-Smith was chief economist at the CBI before leaving to join Barclays as managing director, strategy and policy, sustainability and ESG.

Today’s announcement will be aimed at quelling speculation that the CBI may not survive the scandal.

The CBI said: “Tony Danker is dismissed with immediate effect following the independent investigation into specific complaints of workplace misconduct against him.

“The board wishes to make clear he is not the subject of any of the more recent allegations in The Guardian but has determined that his own conduct fell short of that expected of the director general.”

In a frank admission of failure, the board said “The allegations that have been made over recent weeks about the CBI have been devastating. While investigations continue into a number of these, it is already clear to all of us that there have been serious failings in how we have acted as an organisation. We must do better, and we must be better.

Tony Danker

Fired: Tony Danker

“We apologise to the victims of this organisational failure, including those impacted by the revulsion we have all felt at hearing their stories. Nobody should feel unsafe in their workplace.

“We wish to thank all those who have had the courage to speak out, through internal or external channels, and encourage them to keep doing so. Our website describes how to do so, providing contact details for specific CBI Management or for an independent third party, whichever route individuals feel more comfortable taking.”

“The CBI exists to help British business flourish. This is a privilege and responsibility which we take extremely seriously and cannot take for granted. We represent our members not just in how we advocate for them, but also through our values as an organisation. It means we must be a place where colleagues are safe, valued and respected, and where there is zero tolerance for behaviour that falls short of those expectations.

“When new concerns were raised relating to our Director General, Tony Danker, in early March we established an independent investigation conducted by Fox Williams, a leading employment law firm, and agreed with him that he should step aside while it took place.

“The first phase of this investigation has now concluded and, following the subsequent reports of wider workplace misconduct, the CBI Board has decided to take a number of steps to bring in new leadership and make immediate changes to the way we operate.”

While Fox Williams continues with the next phase of its inquiry, the CBI is liaising with the police and has made clear its intention to cooperate fully with any police investigations.

Jill Ader, a CBI board member and senior adviser and recent global chair of the leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder, will oversee a root-and-branch review of culture, governance and processes, leading a new sub-committee of the board alongside its president Brian McBride.

There will be a new, elevated position of chief people officer which will sit on the executive committee and report directly to the board on all matters of workplace conduct and culture. The board intends to conduct a wide-ranging external recruitment process for this role. HR director Lauren Adams has agreed to step up into this role on an interim basis.

“We know it will take time for these steps to make a difference and rebuild trust. We will not hesitate to take any measures necessary in the meantime to act on further findings or complaints that arise from ongoing investigations,” said the board.

Mr McBride said: “I am delighted that Rain has agreed to return to the CBI as our new Director-General.

“Rain is well-known and highly respected at the CBI, and by its membership. She is the right leader for the organisation, possessing deep knowledge of the challenges facing businesses who are trying to grow in these challenging economic times. I have every confidence that she will provide the clear-sighted leadership that the CBI and UK business needs.”

On her appointment, Ms Newton-Smith said: “It’s a huge privilege to be asked to return to the CBI to serve as its Director-General.

“I passionately believe in the power of business to transform our society. I want the CBI to be an organisation of which we can all be proud.

“I am grateful and determined to lead the team through this challenging time. I look forward to working with the team, our members and stakeholders as we work together to achieve sustainable growth.”

Newton-Smith biography

Prior to joining the economics team at the CBI, Ms Newton-Smith was head of emerging markets at Oxford Economics, where she was the lead expert on China.

Her earlier career included nine years at the Bank of England, where her responsibilities included preparing global forecasts for the Monetary Policy Committee. During her time at the Bank, Rain was seconded to the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC.

She holds an MSc in Economics from LSE and studied Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University. She was honoured by the World Economic Forum in 2012 as a Young Global Leader and in 2010 was selected as one of Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35.

Lobby group in battle for survival

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