Private Eye reports Heather Mills exposé

  1. The current issue of Private Eye (1484) reports my Heather Mills exposé (see 16 November 2018 post).
  2. Private Eye is the UK’s number one best-selling news and current affairs magazine.
  3. You won’t find the report – or much else from the magazine – on the Eye website because the online presence is minimal. Here’s a scanned copy of the page from my subscription copy – see middle column: Private Eye 1484.
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ASA ruling upholds my complaint about UK Direct Shop

  1. On 21 November 2018, advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published its ruling about an ad from UK Direct Shop claiming “celebrities” (unnamed) use its bracelet. The ASA upheld my complaint about the ad, which appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper on 20 August 2018. (https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/uk-direct-shop-ltd-a18-463900.html)
  2. The regulator opened a formal investigation because the complaint was actually the THIRD I‘d made about UK Direct Shop making the claim in national newspaper ads that celebrities use its bracelets. On each occasion, the firm declined to name the alleged celebrities.
  3. The latest ad was the same ad that was the subject of my SECOND complaint to the ASA (see 2 July 2018 post).
  4. It was beyond time for action by the ASA on egregious repeat offender UK Direct Shop. Its credibility as a regulator was at stake.

Mirror columnist Heather Mills plugs firms, without disclosure of interest

  1. On 4 October 2018, Heather Mills, who is a vegan, began a fortnightly column in the Daily Mirror newspaper, “Live healthy with Heather”. There Ms Mills, whom the Mirror bills as “campaigner and food writer”, has been plugging firms, without disclosure of interest.
  2. The foot of each column bears not only the address of her website, but also her Twitter feed and that for her vegan food business, VBites.
  3. Starting as she meant to go on, Ms Mills recommended a Holland & Barrett supplement alone in her first column, even helpfully quoting price. (Daily Mirror 4 Oct 2018) However, she omitted to mention that she works with the national chain of health food shops. Some Holland & Barrett stores have a VBites cafe, while all flog her vegan food.
  4. In her second column (18 October 2018), Ms Mills recommended some vitamins and supplements for vegans; yet didn’t name a brand or retailer this time.
  5. She was back at it in her third column (1 November 2018), though: “If you need a whey protein replacement, try fitdelis.com chocolate protein powder – that’s my daily breakfast.” (Daily Mirror 1 Nov 2018) What Ms Mills didn’t say is that she recently invested in Fit Delis via her investment company, VBites Ventures.
  6. In the same column, Ms Mills also named two supermarkets, the online Ocado and Morrisons. By happy chance, both sell her products.
  7. On 15 November 2018, meanwhile, Ms Mills turned her attention to vegan wines: “Zizzi restaurants and Greene King pubs, for example, proudly advertise their vegan wines.” (Daily Mirror 15 Nov 2018) On 11 September 2018, she’d tweeted excitedly about a new Zizzi vegan dessert, using the hashtag VBites. (https://twitter.com/heatherofficial/status/1039646960062537729) While Greene King has a vegan menu that – surprise, surprise – includes VBites products.
  8. Earlier this year, I exclusively revealed that another Mirror columnist, Fiona Phillips, had used her column more than once to plug well-known optician Specsavers, without disclosure of interest (see 25 April 2018 post). Private Eye magazine reported my findings, too (see 3 May 2018 post). So Ms Mills is only the latest high-profile columnist the newspaper permits to plug firms, without disclosure of interest.

The opaque relationship between The Amir Khan Foundation and Penny Appeal

  1. Here I reveal the unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around the relationship – including money flows – between charities The Amir Khan Foundation (AKF) and Penny Appeal (PA). The vague statements and lack of detail in AKF’s accounts and trustees’ annual report – plus persistent late filing – risk undermining its credibility.
  2. There’s no suggestion that anyone has done anything illegal.
  3. Professional boxer Amir Khan registered his eponymous charity on 1 August 2014. The foot of each page on the AKF website proclaims “in partnership with pennyappeal.org” (screen shot in Figure 1). Yet PA, a Muslim international humanitarian charity established in 2009, is mentioned nowhere in either of the two sets of accounts for AKF, for 2015 and 2016, filed to date at the Charity Commission.

    Figure 1. “In partnership with pennyappeal.org”: The Amir Khan Foundation website at 11 September 2018

  4. In fact, there is almost nothing in the accounts about what AKF has actually done. Thus both years the expenditure on charitable activities went on “relief of suffering: activities undertaken directly”. And that’s it. No countries are named, either. However, the “campaigns” page on the AKF website shows several projects both in the UK and overseas (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. “Campaigns” page on The Amir Khan Foundation website at 11 September 2018

  5. Similarly, the charity says nothing about achievements under, er, “achievements and performance” in each trustees’ annual report. Further, the 2016 accounts show one employee, but fail to disclose role or salary. There were no employees the previous year.
  6. Another concern about AKF and its accounts is that the charity has always filed late: those for 2015 were 102 days late, while 2016 was even worse – 255 days late. Predictably, the 2017 accounts are 13 days overdue at 13 November 2018. (Charities must file their accounts within 10 months of the end of their financial year. With a financial year-end of 31 December, deadline for submission is 31 October.)
  7. People can donate to AKF via its website. There’s also an AKF appeal page on the PA website (screen shot in Figure 3). Nevertheless it’s unclear where exactly donations collected in the name of AKF on the PA page go. That is, do the donations go to AKF? Or PA?

    Figure 3. Amir Khan Foundation appeal page on Penny Appeal website at 11 September 2018

  8. Adeem Younis, who is chair of and public contact for PA, didn’t respond to emailed requests for clarification of this point. Nor did public contact for AKF, Rizwan Malik. When I wrote to Mr Malik, I highlighted the fact that Mr Younis had failed to respond on this matter.
  9. The PA 2015 annual report records start of the “partnership” with AKF. Yet the linked financial statements don’t refer to AKF at all. The next year’s PA annual report, too, describes working with the boxer’s charity – but again the financial statements omit to mention it. Meanwhile, the PA 2017 annual report says nothing about AKF – as do the financial statements. Also, AKF doesn’t appear in the list of “partnerships” (p.9).
  10. In August 2014, trustee Mr Khan launched his charity with a fundraising dinner in Manchester, as the Sky Sports website reported on 2 October 2014 (screen shot in Figure 4). Yet astonishingly there is nothing about the event in the first year’s (2015) accounts. £218k was raised that night, Sky Sports says. While total income in the first year was £258.7k, according to the accounts. A linked concern is that the 2015 accounts fail to disclose fundraising costs: of the total £100k spent, £94k went on charitable activities and £6k on “governance costs”. The launch fundraising dinner would have incurred costs, but these aren’t reported. No fundraising costs are disclosed in the 2016 accounts, either.

    Figure 4. Report on Sky Sports website (2 October 2014): “The Amir Khan Foundation is launched following King Khan’s trip to Gambia”

  11. AKF needs to improve significantly disclosure in its accounts, as well as file on time. The boxer’s charity should start by detailing how exactly – including money flows – it works with PA, and vice versa.

Response from the FT

  1. On 22 October 2018, I first requested a comment from the FT on alleged non-disclosure of a related-party transaction in its accounts (see previous post). It didn’t respond. I therefore sent a reminder a week later, but to no avail. Nothing.
  2. Having published this morning (6 November 2018), I finally received a written statement from the news organisation this afternoon: “The Financial Times Limited is not required to disclose its transactions with Room to Read as they are not related parties. Mr Ridding is related to both organisations but does not have control or joint control over either entity.”
  3. I shall respond shortly.

FT accounts fail to disclose related-party transaction

  1. The latest accounts for The Financial Times Limited (registered company number: 00227590), those made up to 31 December 2017, fail to disclose a related-party transaction. The related party is children’s charity Room To Read UK Limited (registered charity number: 1125803). The Financial Times (FT) donates office space to the charity.
  2. In May, public contact for the charity, Sarah Myers Cornaby, confirmed in an email that Room To Read UK Limited’s office was at the FT (see 4 June 2018 post). But back then Ms Myers Cornaby declined to give further details about the arrangements between the newspaper and the charity in relation to the office, writing: “Our arrangements for 2017 will be reflected as appropriate in our future audited accounts.”
  3. Well, in September, the charity filed its 2017 accounts at both Companies House and the Charity Commission. However, the latest accounts fail to identify the FT as the donor of office space – there the name of the donor is undisclosed.
  4. Ms Myers Cornaby didn’t respond to emailed requests that month for confirmation that the FT is indeed the donor.
  5. The FT‘s 2017 accounts show no related-party transactions (see note 22 in the notes to the financial statements, related-party transactions).
  6. John Ridding is the link between the news organisation and Room To Read UK Limited.
  7. Mr Ridding is FT chief executive and a director of the firm. He is also longstanding chair of the charity’s UK advisory board, which “exists to support the promotion and fundraising activity of Room To Read UK Limited in the UK and Europe.” Further, in March, Mr Ridding became Room to Read’s board chair – chair of the global board of directors, that is (see 4 June 2018 post). Room to Read is a multinational charity. The FT chief executive was already a member of the global board of directors.
  8. Mr Ridding came under scrutiny for his salary upon publication of the FT’s latest accounts at the end of July. These revealed that the FT chief executive received a stonking £2.6m last year, which represented a £510k rise before tax. Days later, in August, Mr Ridding announced that he would return his 2017 pay increase, about £280k after tax, to the company, to be used to promote women’s careers and reduce the gender pay gap at the FT. His move was prompted by outcry from the paper’s National Union of Journalists group over the perceived excessive pay hike. Two months later, FT journalists remained in dispute over the matter, according to the Daily Mail’s city diary, The dastardly Mr Deedes” (17 October).
  9. I asked the FT in emails to explain the non-disclosure in note 22 of the donation of office space to related party Room To Read UK Limited. It didn’t respond.