Some weeks ago, when BHS went under, i wrote this blog that accused Philip Green of being little better than Robert Maxwell. Nothing has changed in the interim though it might today. Today Philip Green appears in front of the DWP/BIS select committee.
He has a straight choice, either he returns to his flotilla of yachts and lives out the rest of his days unloved, knighthood-less and a wart on the face of decent society, or he pays the money he (morally) owes his staff’s pension scheme.
I don’t think that technical arguments come into this, Green can hide behind lawyers and say he did nothing criminally wrong, but that won’t help (other than to keep him out of court).
The Pension Regulator presides over a system that depends on trust and if Philip Green wants to game that system, he can do. He will not go to prison, because – unlike Maxwell- he positioned every action he took – the right side of what little criminal law – there is.
But the moral compass is clearly askew and if it was guiding his yachts, that compass would have put those boats on the rocks long ago.
The simple choice between right and wrong
Philip Green’s weakness (in business terms) is his vulnerability to public opinion. If he didn’t care about his reputation , he would not be in front of the Select Committee today. His repeated plans to see the pensioners right, including the latest “project Thor”, shows that Green knew the damage the pension scheme could do. It could hole his reputation below the plimsoll line and that reputation is about to be torpedoed – today.
So we will wait and see what kind of an offer Green is going to make. Then we will reconsider our opinion. The damage he has already done to the prospects of his staff’s pensions is obvious, the distress and anger of the families of those blameless individuals – who see Green and his yachts as symbols of a theft – all too evident.
I hope that Frank Field and his team and his colleagues from BIS will keep the image of the people who are due to lose out – clear in their thinking – when grilling Green. These people currently have no other champion.
There is a simple issue of right and wrong here and Green has to decide whether he wants to do the right thing or the wrong thing. There are no mitigating circumstances, no legal niceties.
Pay up or bugger off to your boats – for good.
The alchemy of Professor Green
There appears a new plan in the offing…according to the BBC
Sir Philip told MPs the new plan, being drawn up by accountancy group Deloitte, would offer BHS pensioners a “better outcome” than compensation available from the Pension Protection Fund, a lifeboat scheme which helps finance pensions after company insolvencies.
Perhaps it involves putting a yacht up as a contingent asset – now that’s what I call a lifeboat