The British Insurance Brokers’ Association has cancelled its CBI membership due to allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against senior staff at the UK’s leading business lobby organisation, one of a group of members to have cut their ties.
The association, which represents 1,800 insurance broking and other intermediary firms, notified the CBI last week that it was stopping its membership, according to a person familiar with the matter. BIBA declined to comment.
In an interview on Friday, Brian McBride, CBI president, said “a handful” of members had cancelled their membership since the allegations broke, leading to speculation over how the CBI would manage its cash flow if the crisis deepens further.
Many members, including Rolls-Royce, Marks and Spencer, EY and Aon, have expressed serious concerns about the situation at the CBI as they await the outcome of an independent investigation by law firm Fox Williams into a slew of sexual harassment, workplace bullying and drug-taking allegations.
The allegations, first reported by The Guardian, include an alleged rape at a 2019 staff party which is now being investigated by the City of London Police. The CBI has suspended three employees pending the outcome of the probe.
Last week, following a separate Fox Williams investigation into alleged workplace misconduct, the CBI sacked its director-general Tony Danker.
The CBI employs around 300 people in its UK and international offices and is fighting to retain members whose subscriptions account for the bulk of the lobby group’s annual turnover of around £25mn.
McBride said he had spent much of last week in private phone calls with CBI members offering them reassurance that the organisation could reclaim the confidence of government and public, urging members to judge the organisation on its actions.
However it has been forced to cancel all external engagements, including its prestigious annual dinner, after government ministers and leading opposition politicians put a freeze on interactions with the group.
McBride said on Friday that it would be “unfair” for the government to leave the CBI out in the cold for the duration of any criminal investigation into the rape case, which could take 12 to 18 months.
The majority of CBI members have said that they are waiting to see the outcome of the Fox Williams report before making any decisions. McBride said the number that had quit was in “single digits”.
However the boss of one of the largest CBI members told the Financial Times that the organisation could not remain in limbo for too long. “For me it is ‘wait and see’, because if you have a spokesman organisation that’s now effectively muted, and if you’ve got a lobbying organisation that none of the people you’re lobbying are interested in, how long can that go on?”
The executive added that all members would now be considering their position, making it difficult for the body to plan its future activities because of uncertainty over its cash flow from subscription fees.
“They won’t keep all those members. A lot of people pay their membership because they’ve always paid their membership. They’ve never had a moment when everyone’s really thought [about it] at the same time.”
“We’re asking ourselves, what do we get from the CBI?” said the chief executive of another CBI member, who said the allegations were “scandalous” and its membership was “on watch”.
The Association of British Insurers, another association member, said it was monitoring the situation.
The CBI said: “Any resignation is always a matter of regret. As highly valued members previously we hope — and believe — they [the BIBA] will leave the door open to reviewing that decision in the future.”