FirstFT: Bain penalised over ‘grave misconduct’ in South Africa


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Good morning. Bain & Co, the Boston-based global management consultant, was hit yesterday with a three-year ban from tendering for British government contracts because of its “grave professional misconduct” in a corruption scandal in South Africa.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Cabinet Office minister, told Bain that the affair had rendered the company’s integrity “questionable” and that he was not convinced that it had taken its role in the scandal “sufficiently seriously”.

In a letter seen by the Financial Times, Rees-Mogg told James Hadley, Bain’s UK managing partner, that the ban would apply retrospectively from January 4 2022. “I trust that after three years have elapsed Bain & Co will have restored its reputation,” he wrote.

Initially, Cabinet Office officials advised that no action against the company was necessary but Rees-Mogg sought further advice, including from an external QC.

Britain is the first western country to impose such penalties on Bain for its role in the “state capture” scandal in South Africa. There is pressure on the US to follow suit.

Do you support Rees-Mogg’s intervention? Share your thoughts at firstft@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa — Jennifer

1. Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan The Speaker of the US House of Representatives touched down yesterday in Taiwan, the highest-level visit by an American official for decades, as China announced live-fire military drills.

  • Tempers rise: Beijing has blocked imports from hundreds of Taiwanese food producers in what appears to be an attempt to punish Taipei.

  • Go deeper: Tom Mitchell writes that President Xi Jinping’s reaction has imbued Pelosi’s trip with greater importance than it deserves.

2. Lloyd’s hunts for billions in fresh capital Lloyd’s of London hopes a new investment structure agreed with UK financial regulators will attract billions of dollars in alternative capital and boost its competitiveness with hubs such as Bermuda in the growing market for insurance-linked securities.

3. Liz Truss makes U-turn on cutting public sector pay The UK foreign secretary’s Tory leadership bid suffered a setback yesterday when she was forced to abandon her plan to cut pay for public sector workers in poorer areas of Britain just 12 hours after it was launched in the face of ferocious criticism. Who do you think will win the leadership race? Vote in our poll.

  • Go deeper: Truss’s policy struggled with a basic problem: you can’t cut salaries in the places you struggle to recruit, writes Stephen Bush in Inside Politics. Sign up for his newsletter here.

  • Opinion: Tax cut vows are a distraction from the UK’s woeful productivity, writes Diane Coyle, professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge.

4. UK risks deepening recession Britain’s economy is sliding into recession, with no let-up in a cost of living crisis that will exhaust the savings of more than 5mn households by 2024, according to forecasts by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research that showed GDP would fall through the first quarter of 2023.

5. Robinhood to sack 23% of staff The struggling online brokerage will lay off almost a quarter of its staff as it contends with falls in the retail trading fervour from coronavirus pandemic highs. The cuts are part of a “broader reorganisation”, it announced in a blog post yesterday.

The day ahead

Opec+ meeting The oil producers’ group convenes today in the wake of US president Joe Biden’s visit to Riyadh and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s swing through Europe last week. Any move to raise output could put renewed downward pressure on crude prices, which have bounced around $100 a barrel.

Ukraine grain shipment checks The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, carrying 26,000 tonnes of Ukrainian corn as part of a deal to alleviate soaring food prices, is expected to undergo checks by officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN at a joint control centre in Lebanon.

Economic data S&P Global releases services purchasing managers’ indices for France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US. Italy and the EU publish retail sales data for June and July, respectively, while the US has monthly employment data.

Corporate earnings Axa, Bank of Ireland, Commerzbank, eBay, Hugo Boss, Infineon Technologies, Just Eat, Moderna, Taylor Wimpey, Telecom Italia and Veolia report. Maersk releases full quarterly results after raising its profit guidance for the third time this year. Find more in our The Week Ahead newsletter — and sign up here to receive it by email each Sunday.

What else we’re reading

The Tories’ wilful blindness on climate is baffling Both candidates for the UK governing party leadership seem content to ignore environmental and geopolitical reality, writes Pilita Clark. If we are on the brink of converting climate promises into concrete action, one would not know it from watching Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

China in focus in Kenya’s election The candidates campaigning to become Kenya’s next president agree on one thing: China is at the heart of next week’s election. While the deputy president has threatened to deport Chinese nationals, many of whom are struggling to make a living, his veteran rival is highlighting the need to renegotiate loans from Beijing.

How listening to uninterrupted noise helped millions to focus Lofi Girl, a music livestream, broadcast uninterrupted for 20,843 hours — more than two years — until YouTube suddenly suspended it last month. These continuous streams are designed for people seeking not silence but peace, writes Dave Lee.

Nike scores success with women’s football For the sportswear retailer, which outfitted the Lionesses as they scored their way to victory in the European Championships, an appearance in almost every British newspaper was the culmination of nearly a decade of investment in English, and particularly women’s, football.

Time to invest in a sabbatical? The concept of taking extended periods off has long been common in the academic world, but as the war for talent rages, it is increasingly being embraced in professional workplaces. More employers are prepared to grant staff time off, but there are important financial questions to ask first, Claer Barrett explains.

Architecture

The first renderings of the new Saudi city of Neom were released last week. It is intended to house 9mn residents over a length of 170km in a channel slicing through the Tabuk desert. The similarities with a plan in 1969 for a continuous city cutting through the Arizona desert are irresistible, writes architecture critic Edwin Heathcote.

An artist’s interpretation of the new Saudi city of Neom
Neom is a city defined as a wall, driven through an uninhabitable desert, hermetically sealed and reliant solely on technology to make it liveable © EOM/AFP/Getty Images

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