MPs and conflict of interest: there’s no conflict if it is in their interests!

Hugo Swire says in his most recent blog that we should not worry about his mate George Osborne’s £650,000 job with a gigantic hedge fund (Blackrock). He says:

“… At Blackrock, his main job will be to advise on economic matters and to represent the company in a social capacity. As for abandoning his constituents, I shouldn’t think the hours he puts in will be any less than those of when he was Chancellor which, I might add, was also a second job and quite a considerable one at that! …”

However, the Guardian newspaper has a different take on the matter:

” …the potential for conflicts of interest are enormous. Here is just one obvious example: BlackRock owns about 10% of AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical firm at the centre of a political storm when US rival Pfizer launched an unsuccessful £69bn bid in 2014. If, for example, BlackRock had wished the takeover to go ahead, who better to have on board to assess the potential political reaction – and advise on ways around it – than the former chancellor?

Add in the fact that the same man is now editor of the Evening Standard – the City’s evening newspaper – and his influence is magnified further. When deals that can generate profits measured in hundreds of millions are on the table, Osborne’s £650k is a mere trifle. …

BlackRock … by numbers

BlackRock has a stake in every FTSE 100 company, worth a total of £145bn.
That means it owns nearly 8% of the UK’s leading share index. Its investment in the FTSE 100 accounts for around 3.5% of its total assets of £4trn. Its biggest stake by value is its £9bn investment in HSBC, its smallest a £9.3m shareholding in medical group Convatec.

Other shareholdings worth more than £5bn are AstraZeneca, British American Tobacco, GlaxoSmithKline, and the two classes of Royal Dutch Shell shares.

In percentage terms, its top holdings are Next (nearly 14%), BHP Billiton (13.29%), information group Relx (12.88%), Land Securities (12.46%), building materials group CRH (12.46%), cruise company Carnival (12.19%), gold miner Randgold Resource (nearly 12%), easyJet (11.83%), technology group Johnson Matthey (11.83%), and Severn Trent (11.55%).

It is the biggest shareholder in more than half of the FTSE 100’s companies: Ashtead, Aviva, AstraZeneca, British American Tobacco, British Land, BHP Billiton, BP, Burberry, Centrica, Compass, Croda, CRH, Diageo, Direct Line, Experian, GKN, GlaxoSmithKline, Hammerson, HSBC, 3i, Imperial Brands, Intertek, Johnson Matthey, Kingfisher, Land Securities, Legal & General, Lloyds Banking Group, London Stock Exchange, Marks & Spencer, Mondi, National Grid, Next, Persimmon, Royal Dutch Shell A and B shares, Relx, Royal Mail, Randgold Resources, Sage, Shire, St James’s Place, Standard Life, Smiths Group, Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, Smith & Nephew, Severn Trent, Tesco, Unilever, Vodafone, Worldpay, and WPP.
(Source: Thomson Reuters)

Its joint venture infrastructure investments include a business park at Heathrow, windfarms bought from Centrica, solar farms in Derbyshire and Essex and a £75m loan to Trafford Housing Trust.”