The independent investigation into the bankruptcy and collapse of the MG Rover car manufacturer in 2005 has been published after four years and is 830 pages long. The four directors – the Phoenix Four – got away with personally enriching themselves to the tune of £42 million in five years; their goal was £75 millions. They still own assets of £11.4 million. MG Rover collapsed with debts in excess of £1 billion and 6500 workers lost their jobs.
The Serious Fraud Office has declined to prosecute as all the actions of the directors were within company and financial law. The report details and alleges bribery, corruption, tax avoidance, rampant personal greed, deception, destruction of evidence, but concludes that whatever behaviour the Phoenix Four engaged in, with their financial advisers and bankers – Deloitte and Barclays – it was all legal.
There is no action that the government can take against the Phoenix Four other than pathetically requesting that they volunteer to bar themselves from ever running a business again. The Four responded by dismissing the £16 million investigation as “a witch hunt against them and a whitewash of government…It drips with the hallmarks of this government – spin, smear and point blank refusal to take any responsibility for their own actions.” Not the words of someone going to volunteer for anything and the report has a huge glaring hole in that the government’s role hardly gets a mention!
So one of the first great con tricks of the 21st century, the buying of MG Rover for £10 from BMW, the interest free loans from BMW worth hundreds of millions of pounds, the five-year plan to personally enrich themselves by £75 million, the games with China – will they won’t they invest, the use of state of the art computer software to destroy records, must result in Hollywood making the film. The Phoenix Four took the money and got away with it, stuff of capitalist legend and just like MPs expenses scandal and fraud, all legal, all within the rules, all untouchable.