Sir Philip Green may finally have cut himself loose from the stain of BHS but there is no such luck in prospect for The Pensions Regulator.
It was obvious from the moment that chief executive Lesley Titcomb told the Commons select committee last year that her knowledge of the 20,000-strong retirement scheme at BHS came from the media that she was running a misfiring agency.
Indeed, the official initially assigned to sort out BHS was a discarded banker who admitted he didn’t know much about pensions.For most of the last year the redoubtable chairman of the work and pensions committee, Frank Field, reserved his venom for Green.
Now the ‘King of the High Street’ has coughed up Field is turning on the regulator.
His panel says ‘never again’ should the regulator take two years to intervene, only to agree a 23-year deficit recovery plan for a company such as BHS at the entrance of Carey Street.
The regulator was ill-equipped to cope with a complex negotiation with a dealmaker like Green and simply not nimble enough.
The only sensible move it made throughout the process was to start the court proceedings which led Green to speed up his £363million transfer.
A mystery of this whole affair is how Green, who reportedly shipped all of his cash dividends from BHS and Arcadia overseas, could find the cash from personal resources without having to pay a 45 per cent tax rate if he reshored the money.
We are now told that not all Green’s wealth is sheltered in Monaco and he has substantial cash and property assets in the UK. Money behind the mantelpiece.
As for Titcomb, she should be working her socks off now to resolve outstanding issues at Tata Steel, Hoover, Bernard Matthews and Vauxhall.
Perhaps she could take a lesson from the smarter leadership of the Pension Protection Fund which is always three steps ahead of the regulator.
If Titcomb cannot cope, then she should quietly go.
Britain’s defence and aerospace sector with its special relationship with the Pentagon should be enjoying a golden era. President Trump is promising a $54billion (£44billion) uplift on an already huge American military budget and likes surrounding himself with generals.
Meggitt demonstrated earlier this week what a tightly run defence company can achieve.
The contrast with Cobham could not be more stark. Chief executive David Lockwood has had to go back to investors for a further £500million of cash.
It is the second such bailout in the past nine months.
The biggest problem has been delivering on its share of the KC-46 flight refuelling contract with Boeing, a contractor in the sights of Trump for cost overruns on the new Air Force One. Most of the extra cost for the KC-46 has fallen Cobham’s way.
The most serious difficulties arise from acquisitions in the US which went horribly wrong.
My own recollection of the ancien regime is being assured that Cobham’s management systems in the US were so robust that they would have no trouble integrating what they had bought.
Instead, it is writing down the value of its wireless operations, much of which came with the Axell and Aeroflex purchases in 2013 and 2014, by £196million.
Other parts of the Aeroflex acquisition – electronic solutions and semiconductors – are being written down by £186million and £192million respectively.
The extent of the damage to Cobham’s reputation and future is similar to what happened to Marconi (the former GEC) which went on a telecoms buying spree which all but wiped shareholders.
One has to believe that there is enough good engineering expertise at Cobham to bring the company back once balance sheet kinks have been put behind it.
Cobham has seen the shares halve in value over the last three years in a warning to investors about acquisition-hungry firms.
The £27billion float of Snap Inc, the value of two Twitters, is even more remarkable given the company’s impervious governance,
Remarkably for an initial public offering Snapchat’s founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy are keeping all the votes to themselves, locking out public investors.
Spiegel has never forgiven its first backer, Lightspeed, which injected £394,000 and eventually ended up as the biggest outside investor with 8 per cent of the stock worth just under £2.4billion.
Spiegel and Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew are still not speaking.
Originally published by Alex Brummer at Mail Online