Monday, 2 January 2017

Pub adjudicator reveals commercial interests

I've written on 10 June 2016 and 30 November 2016 before about how the pub code adjudicator (PCA), Paul Newby, has financial interests that could compromise his independence; my post in June goes into detail about his investments. Mr Newby has decided to publish full details of his financial involvement in Fleurets in order to answer charges of a conflict of interest: the details are in the Morning Advertiser.

A spokesperson for the PCA has said: "These pre-existing interests do not call into question his ability to carry out his responsibilities. This is a view that has been upheld by the commissioner for public appointments. There is no direct link between the ownership of shares and loans and the decisions Mr Newby is required to make as the adjudicator. He gains no direct benefit from future instructions to Fleurets or the outcome of any particular case involving the company and there is no incentive for him to act in any particular manner."

Does that answer all the criticisms? In my opinion, the use of the word 'direct' twice in this statement leaves questions unanswered. It could be argued that a decision he may make in a pubco's favour could benefit him indirectly. After all, he doesn't want a company in which he has a sizeable stake to lose value, thus jeopardising repayments to him. If I had money invested in a company, I'd want it to do well. Greg Mulholland MP has asked why someone with a legal background wasn't appointed, a suggestion I made in a comment to my post in June; such an appointment would not have been touched by this kind of controversy.

For all I know, Mr Newby may well be a man of integrity who is committed to doing his job fairly; I certainly hope so, and the increased openness is to be welcomed. However, the question of how he is perceived remains unanswered, so I'm inclined to doubt that all the critics will be satisfied.

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