Analysis: Co-operative Group directors are to blame

The directors are all to blame. They squandered billions of pounds on deals and have brought the Group to its knees. This is all according to Lord Myners,...

The directors are all to blame. They squandered billions of pounds on deals and have brought the Group to its knees. This is all according to Lord Myners, whose sole purpose is to pull apart and examine the Co-operative Group’s governance.

So it may seem like an attack on democracy – but this is exactly why the Labour peer has been brought in. Asking him about the failure of management has been sidestepped simply because this is not his role to determine. Wait for the upcoming Kelly Review, which will undoubtedly outline the role management played.

It does seem over the past few months a number of events have put democracy into doubt.

Emails from former Bank vice-chair Rodney Baker-Bates – released as part of the Treasury select committee’s investigation – show an apparent struggle to convince former CEO Peter Marks along with some Group directors that Project Verde was the wrong step.

But former Co-operative Group director Chris Herries, who was on the board during this time, says the Bank’s independent professional non-executive directors (IPNEDs) “were pushing in favour of the Lloyds deal” and “it was the rest of us who stopped it on several occasions”. The Bank’s IPNEDs also “spearheaded” the Britannia acquisition, according to Ms Herries.

Euan Sutherland, who was also an IPNED on the Food board before becoming chief executive, “did not raise any more relevant questions than the democrats did,” adds Ms Herries. She says the board had also been “pressing for lower prices for years”, but the executive said it was not possible.

It is a tale of two halves. An attack on governance has taken place, but a much more fuller picture of the Co-operative Group is set to emerge when Sir Christopher Kelly reveals his review that is focused much more on “management structure and culture”.

For further updates, information and analysis, view the full Myners Review collection

In this article

Join the Conversation