CBI fires director general, suspends three others

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said on Tuesday it has dismissed Tony Danker as director-general after an investigation into complaints of workplace misconduct — and replaced him with former chief economist Rain Newton-Smith.

Three other CBI employees have been suspended pending further investigation into a number of ongoing allegations.

The CBI said it is liaising with the police and “has made clear its intention to cooperate fully” with any police investigations.

“The allegations that have been made over recent weeks about the CBI have been devastating,” said the CBI.

“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.

“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.”

Rain Newton-Smith

The CBI said Newton-Smith, former CBI Chief Economist and currently Managing Director, Strategy and Policy, Sustainability and ESG for Barclays, has agreed to rejoin the CBI as its new director general.

“She brings with her a formidable track record as a leader and expertise on a wide range of business issues,” said CBI.

“We thank Chief Policy Director Matthew Fell for his vital work as interim Director General during these difficult last few weeks and look forward to him again driving forward our policy work for members.”

It said Danker “is dismissed with immediate effect following the independent investigation into specific complaints of workplace misconduct against him.”

The CBI made it 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.”

Three other CBI employees are now suspended pending further investigation into a number of ongoing allegations.

“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,” said the CBI.

“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 our culture, governance and processes, leading a new sub-committee of the board alongside its President Brian McBride.

“The review will draw on practice in best-in-class organisations addressing culture change as well as underlying processes such as routes for raising concerns, investigations, escalation protocols and responsibilities.

“It will begin with a listening exercise among CBI colleagues and input from our members and stakeholders to understand what needs to be changed and improved, and how we learn the lessons from what has happened in recent years.

“We will create a new, elevated position of Chief People Officer which will sit on our executive committee and report directly to the board on all matters of workplace conduct and culture.

“We intend to conduct a wide-ranging external recruitment process for this role. Our HR director Lauren Adams has agreed to step up into this role on an interim basis.

“The current independent and confidential channel outside the CBI for people to come forward with concerns and complaints about workplace conduct will be made permanent.

“We also recognise the enormous strain this experience has placed on all our people and will continue to offer support to anyone who needs it.”

The CBI added: “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.

“Our people, partners and members all need to feel proud of the CBI to ensure it is effective.

“We will now work tirelessly to ensure that under new leadership and with a commitment to build a modern, inclusive culture, the CBI can and will resume its vital work of supporting British business.”

The CBI added that anyone who has relevant information that can assist the investigation can contact the independent investigation team directly at CBIInvestigation@foxwilliams.com

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

“She has a stellar record as a leader and advocate for UK business with all it can contribute to the economy and society.

“Rain brings a unique range of expertise and experience, and is widely respected across the worlds of politics, economics, and business.

“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.”

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.”

Prior to joining the economics team at the CBI, 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 UK central bank, where her responsibilities included preparing global forecasts for the Monetary Policy Committee. During her time at the central bank, Newton-Smith was seconded to the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC.

Newton-Smith holds an MSc in Economics from LSE and studied Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University.