David Cameron was paid a salary of more than $1m by Greensill Capital, the finance company whose dramatic collapse exposed the former prime minister’s extensive lobbying efforts.
Two people familiar with the matter said Cameron received the large annual salary for his part-time advisory role, which included an increasingly desperate attempt to secure government funds for the ailing company. A spokesman for Cameron declined to comment.
Cameron was contracted to work 25 days a year as an adviser to the board, meaning he earned the equivalent of more than $40,000 a day.
His efforts to secure access to state-backed emergency coronavirus loans, first revealed by the FT, have landed the former Conservative party leader in the biggest Westminster lobbying scandal for a generation.
When Cameron was hauled in front of MPs investigating the Greensill scandal in May, he said he had been paid “a generous annual amount — far more than what I earned [£150,000] as prime minister”. He refused to disclose the exact figure, however, describing it as a “private matter”.
As the coronavirus pandemic swept across Britain in 2020, Cameron lobbied several ministers and top civil servants on 56 separate occasions in an attempt to secure Greensill’s access to two government-run emergency lending schemes.
The former prime minister told MPs on the Treasury select committee that this incessant lobbying was not motivated by personal gain, but because he thought the company “had a really good idea for how to help extend credit to thousands of businesses”.
When Greensill eventually won access to a coronavirus lending scheme for large businesses, it extended its full £400m allowance of taxpayer-backed loans solely to companies linked to Sanjeev Gupta — the metals magnate whose business empire is now under investigation from the Serious Fraud Office.
Cameron’s salary made him one of the highest earners at Greensill, according to people familiar with the company’s pay scale. By contrast, the head of Greensill’s American division — a career banker with 25 years of experience — earned just over $400,000 a year, US bankruptcy filings show.
Cameron was not the only highly remunerated ex-politician on Greensill’s payroll. The finance company also employed former Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop as adviser, paying an annual salary equivalent to more than $600,000, according to two people familiar with her pay. Bishop did not respond to requests for comment.
In January 2020, Bishop accompanied Cameron and the company’s Australian founder Lex Greensill to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where they pitched a flexible pay scheme to Australia’s then finance minister Mathias Cormann. Australian officials dismissed the scheme, however, describing it as “economically similar to payday lending”.
Cameron’s work for Greensill was extensive. Having joined the finance firm in mid-2018, the former prime minister accompanied its Australian founder on meetings around the world with business people and politicians great and small, often flying on one of the company’s private jets.
This ranged from accompanying Lex Greensill on a desert camping trip in Saudi Arabia — where the pair tried to woo the Gulf kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — to meeting an underwriter at an obscure Australian insurance firm, who was later fired for allegedly breaching risk limits to Greensill Capital.
Cameron also pitched Greensill’s services to a senior German government official in November 2020, just as an investigation into its German banking arm gathered pace. The bank’s management is now under criminal investigation in Germany.
Cameron stood to make an even bigger windfall from share options he was granted when he joined Greensill, which were at one stage said to be worth tens of millions of pounds, but are now worthless.
Cameron has described such a valuation as “absurd”, but has refused to disclose how much he stood to gain if Greensill had successfully listed on the stock market.