Holocaust charity chief executive isn’t employee of charity – yet it fails to both disclose and justify arrangement in annual reports

  1. The chief executive of a Holocaust charity isn’t an employee of the charity – yet the respected charity fails to both disclose and justify the highly unusual arrangement in its annual reports. What’s more, the annual report for the year the chief executive was appointed omitted to mention the fact of a new chief executive, and failed to describe the appointment process. Meanwhile, the two most recent sets of accounts say a little about the pay arrangements for the chief executive, but without reporting employment status. Yet this is better disclosure than the preceding two years: then the pay arrangements were hidden in the accounts, although the same pattern of transactions occurred.
  2. Charity Beth Shalom Limited (registered charity number: 509022) is better known by its working name, The National Holocaust Centre and Museum. Located in Nottinghamshire, it’s “the only centre dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and education in the UK”. The centre’s slogan is “Remembering the past. Protecting the future.”
  3. Phil Lyons MBE is chief executive. The only clue to his employment status is the disclosure that he’s “remunerated through his own consultancy business”, which appears in the two most recent sets of accounts only, for 2015 and 2016.
  4. In its annual reports, the charity fails to disclose that Mr Lyons isn’t an employee of the charity. This is a serious omission. So too is the absence of justification for the highly unusual arrangement.
  5. Why is an explanation required in the annual reports? For transparency and accountability, for a start. Then there’s something else: the charity avoids paying employer’s national insurance (NI) for the chief executive because Mr Lyons isn’t an employee of the charity. Some unscrupulous employers force workers to be self-employed for this exact reason. Is the charity wilfully avoiding paying employer’s NI? It’s a legitimate question.
  6. The charity provided a written statement from Mr Lyons when I sought information about his employment status with the charity. There the chief executive revealed that he’s a self-employed worker who provides services for the charity under a contract for services. Thus he’s an independent contractor. Mr Lyons added that his “consultancy business” isn’t a limited company. In other words, he isn’t paid by the charity through a personal service company.
  7. I then requested a comment from a trustee(s) explaining why the board chooses this arrangement. In his response, Henry Grunwald OBE QC, chair of the board of trustees, confirmed the service contractor arrangement. The charity chose it because at appointment Mr Lyons “was not available to us as as a full-time employee due to his existing commitments”. This arrangement has continued to date, as Mr Lyons still has outside roles. Though Mr Grunwald finished with this interesting information: “Mr Lyons has notified the board that all long-term commitments cease from August 2018 at which point the board will need to consider and, if happy, approve and issue a traditional contract of employment in order to comply with employment status requirements.”
  8. I told the chair I didn’t understand why the information he disclosed about Mr Lyons and his employment status with the charity wasn’t already publicly available in the trustees’ annual reports (TARs). It should be, for transparency and accountability. Mr Grunwald agreed, adding: “we will address this in the next TAR”.
  9. It appears Mr Lyons became chief executive in 2013 – but that year’s TAR fails to mention his appointment to the role. Rather, he’s merely listed as chief executive, without explanation. (The previous year’s TAR shows another chief executive.) So I asked the chair: Why, in their 2013 annual report, didn’t the trustees record the fact of a new boss, and describe the appointment process? Mr Grunwald replied: “This was an omission, and we should have done so. It would have been both an opportunity and good practice.”
  10. Both the 2015 and 2016 accounts reveal that Mr Lyons is “remunerated through his own consultancy business”. But this arrangement is hidden in both the 2013 and 2014 accounts. Why? Mr Grunwald referred me to his previous answer. He went on: “It should have been included in the 2013 and 2014 accounts, as it was in the following two years.”
  11. Meanwhile, is the charity wilfully avoiding paying employer’s NI? Mr Grunwald said: “We are certainly not an unscrupulous employer. That would be entirely contrary to the ethos of the centre. What was done was done, at Mr Lyons’ request, to continue his existing employment status.”
  12. I then put a final point to the chair: the non-disclosure about Mr Lyons and his employment status with the charity isn’t limited to the TARs. It extends to the charity website. The website fails to list the staff, let alone provide details of roles. Thus under “The team” three groups of people are identified: “Academic Advisory Board Members”; “Trustees”; and “Our Patrons” (screen shot in Figure 1). Nothing, then, about Mr Lyons and his paid colleagues. Why? Mr Grunwald replied: “Information about the staff team is published in our ‘Four Year Plan’ and other print publications. However, the centre is a sensitive site, subject to occasional unpleasant activity via the web. Some members of staff have asked that their names and details are not available on the website. We have respected their wishes and removed staff details. This was decision [sic] taken some years ago, but in the light of the other issues raised by you, we will review the information content made available to the public on the website and amend our practice as necessary.”

    Figure 1. The team on The National Holocaust Centre and Museum website at 7 June 2018

  13. I was impressed with the chair’s answers: his approach was open and considered. It’s appropriate to share something Mr Grunwald wrote before addressing my queries in the same email: “It’s important for you to know and accept that nothing in relation to Mr Lyons’ activities at the centre was done with a view to misleading anyone or avoiding any liabilities on the part of the centre.” Fair enough. Also, the chair committed to improve the clarity and transparency of the information published by the charity.
  14. Although opaque, the charity, not only Mr Grunwald, has been open and responsive when asked questions. There’s no suggestion that anyone has done anything illegal.
  15. The last accounts, for 2016, show that the centre paid Mr Lyons £75k for services. The previous year he received £80k. Thus the chief executive is highly paid. And yet until now the charity has withheld three key facts about Mr Lyons. First, he isn’t an employee of the charity. Second, his role as chief executive isn’t full-time. Third, he has outside roles. (For anyone with multiple roles, there’s always the concern that he/she might be spreading him/herself too thinly.)
  16. We’ve learnt something important about Mr Lyons’ outside roles: they’re set to finish in August 2018 (whatever they are). Further, the chair anticipates that the chief executive could then become an employee of the charity.

UK Direct Shop continues to flout its earlier commitment to ASA

  1. On 27 February 2018, I complained to advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an ad from UK Direct Shop claiming “celebrities” (unnamed) use its bracelet. Back then UK Direct Shop told the ASA that it wouldn’t in future make the claims, unless it could substantiate them (see 25 April 2018 post).
  2. Nevertheless UK Direct Shop continues to flout its earlier commitment to the ASA. On 22 May 2018, it advertised another bracelet, the 18-Link Bracelet, in the Daily Mirror newspaper. (Daily Mirror 22 May 2018) And, again, the ad proclaims: As used by celebrities!” It also states: “Even well-known celebrities are wearing them.”
  3. Again, I recently asked UK Direct Shop in an email to tell me which celebrities use its bracelet. And, again, it declined to name them.
  4. The 22 May 2018 ad wasn’t a one-off, either. I saw it again in the Mirror, on 19 June 2018. (Daily Mirror 19 Jun 2018)
  5. So I duly complained to the ASA about the two ads. And guess what? UK Direct Shop again “firmly assured” the regulator that it would cease claiming “celebrities” (unnamed) use its bracelets. On 27 June 2018, the ASA listed UK Direct Shop on its website as one of 45 “informally resolved” cases last week.
  6. The bad faith of UK Direct Shop is shocking – but so too is the ineffectiveness of the ASA in dealing with the repeat offender.

Addendum: Fifth reason for astonishment at Tom Watson MP over Sky Bet

  1. Here’s a fifth reason why I’m astonished Tom Watson MP accepted the gift of four tickets for a football match from Sky Bet (see previous post). On 28 March 2018, gambling regulator the Gambling Commission fined Sky Bet £1m for “failing to protect vulnerable consumers” (http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2018/SkyBet-to-pay-1m-penalty.aspx).
  2. As I say, Mr Watson didn’t respond to requests for comment. I emailed him twice at parliament: 23 June 2018 and 27 June 2018. On both occasions, I immediately received an automated acknowledgement.

Tom Watson MP accepts gift of four tickets for football match from Sky Bet

  1. The latest (at 18 June 2018) register of MPs’ financial interests shows that Tom Watson MP accepted a gift of four tickets for the Sky Bet Championship play-off final, a football match that took place on 26 May 2018. The total value was £392. Sky Betting and Gaming (Sky Bet), the gambling company, was the donor. As well as being deputy leader of Labour, Mr Watson is shadow culture secretary.
  2. I‘m astonished at his decision for at least four reasons.
  3. First, as shadow culture secretary, Mr Watson surely shouldn’t be compromised or appear to be compromised by accepting gifts from the gambling industry. Gambling is within his remit – and, as everyone knows, there are many controversies around the industry and its regulation.
  4. Second, the shadow culture secretary regularly lambasts the gambling industry. On 15 June 2018, for example, The Times newspaper revealed that the government wouldn’t be introducing its £2 maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) until April 2020 after the Treasury struck a backroom deal with bookmakers. The Guardian newspaper followed up the story the next day, where Mr Watson blasted the government for its two-year delay: “Capitulating to a two-year delay is a pathetic move from a fundamentally weak government. Those who praised the government when the announcement was made will feel badly let down. They are already rolling back on their promises and allowing these machines to ruin more lives.” Last weekend, meanwhile, Mr Watson turned his fire on online gambling, telling the Financial Times newspaper: “Britain is in the throes of a hidden epidemic of gambling addiction, with the rise in online and smartphone gambling a central part of the problem. There has been an explosion of new digital products since the last law was passed to regulate gambling. The current laws aren’t fit for the purpose of regulating these new products. If we are to get a grip on the rise of problem gambling we need a new Gambling Act fit for the digital age.”
  5. Third, Sky Betting and Gaming is a leading online gambling firm – and so one of the companies fuelling Mr Watson’s “hidden epidemic of gambling addiction”. (Sky Bet is its sports betting brand.)
  6. Fourth, Sky Betting and Gaming, as its name suggests, has a longstanding association with satellite broadcaster Sky PLC. Indeed, Sky held a controlling stake until 2015, when it sold an 80 percent stake to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners. Sky continued as partner, retaining a 20% stake and consenting to a long-term licence of the Sky brand. In April 2018, CVC and Sky in turn sold the firm to Canadian betting behemoth The Stars Group for £3.4 billion. Nevertheless Sky retains an interest with a small stake in Stars, and the Sky trademarks are still used under licence. Sky, of course, was founded by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns 39.14% of the firm. Mr Murdoch’s company News International was seriously damaged by the 2011 phone-hacking scandal at the now-closed News of the World newspaper. And Mr Watson was one of the leading campaigners who helped expose wrongdoing at the infamous tabloid. In 2012, he published a well-known book with journalist Martin Hickman on the alleged abuses of power by Mr Murdoch’s UK newspapers not only the News of the World, “Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and The Corruption of Britain”. Mr Watson remains a vocal critic of Mr Murdoch as the mogul continues his protracted stop-start battle for full control of Sky.
  7. Four reasons, then, why I’m astonished Mr Watson accepted the gift of four tickets for a football match from Sky Bet.
  8. Mr Watson didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Andrea McLean cover undermines the editorial integrity of Menopause Matters magazine

  1. Menopause Matters (MM) is a trusted and influential source of information for both women experiencing the menopause, and healthcare professionals. NHS Choices, for example, which is the official website of the NHS in England, links to the MM website (screen shot in Figure 1). MM began as a website, but now also publishes a quarterly magazine of the same name. The magazine can be read online for free at the website, or as print copy via paid subscription. Although rammed full of ads for menopause-related products and services, both the website and magazine loudly proclaim MM’s independence. The cover of the latest issue of the magazine, however, represents a significant blurring of the separation between editorial and advertising.

    Figure 1. NHS Choices links to Menopause Matters website at 26 June 2018

  2. I first wrote about MM on 13 December 2017, exposing that it had been secretly promoting advertisers on Twitter. Hidden commercial interests continue to be a problem, as the cover of the current magazine shows. A beaming Andrea McLean, the TV presenter and author, appears on front of the new summer 2018 issue (issue 52) – yet there’s nothing about her in the magazine’s editorial content (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Front cover of Menopause Matters magazine summer 2018 issue (issue 52) at 8 June 2018

  3. There are at least three problems with this.
  4. First, a magazine’s cover photo always directly relates to editorial inside – unless it’s explicitly identified as an ad.
  5. Second, while there’s nothing about Ms McLean in the editorial content, she does feature prominently in a huge ad for Become clothing on p.18-19 (screen shot in Figure 3). The cover photo, therefore, is linked to an ad inside, not an article(s). Thus the cover is misleading and dishonest, given it isn’t marked as an ad.

    Figure 3. Ad for Become clothing in Menopause Matters magazine summer 2018 issue (issue 52) at 26 June 2018

  6. Third, the cover photo of Ms McLean actually came from advertiser Become: it appears on the clothing firm’s homepage (screen shot in Figure 4). She’s modelling the “limited edition grapefruit cami top”. Thus, again, the cover is misleading and dishonest, because it isn’t identified as an ad.

    Figure 4. Become clothing homepage at 8 June 2018

  7. Previously, I noted Ms McLean using national newspaper interviews to plug Become (see 21 March 2018 and 3 April 2018 posts).
  8. Here magazine editor Pamela Brook blurred the separation between editorial and advertising, I believe. Hidden commercial interests remain a problem at “independent” MM, therefore.
  9. I put these points to Ms Brook in an email. She replied: “The front cover picture was provided with no intention of it being seen as an ad, and no money was exchanged for use of this front cover image. It was used in good faith and we do not accept it was either dishonest or misleading.” The editor finished: “We appreciate your attention and will be careful not to include any similar pictures in the future.”

Response from Charity Commission: Youth Cancer Trust (UK) Limited

  1. Today (22 June 2018) I received a comment for publication from the Charity Commission in response to my investigation into charity Youth Cancer Trust (UK) Limited (registered charity number: 1064736) (see 21 May 2018 post). YCT is a long-established, national charity that is based in Bournemouth.
  2. I exposed the excessive fundraising costs at the young people’s cancer charity. The official professional fundraiser retains for itself a staggering 83 per cent (yes, 83 per cent) of the money it raises in the name of YCT. Yet another rip-off professional fundraiser, then.
  3. A commission spokesperson said in an email: “It’s important that charities are transparent to ensure the public understand how their donations are spent. Third-party fundraisers are legally required to tell people what proportion of their donation will go to the charity.” He/she continued: “Charity trustees should always have a clear oversight of the companies they work with, ensuring that any decisions made are in the best interests of their charity. We will assess any information we receive regarding concerns over the allocation of charitable funds by Youth Cancer Trust.”
  4. I then queried the charity regulator’s last sentence. The public rightly expects the commission to “assess” information it receives, I said. That’s a given. What matters is what, if anything, the Charity Commission does with the information. So was the commission actually doing anything as a result of my evidence? If so, what?
  5. The same spokesperson replied: “We will be contacting the charity but we’re unable to comment further at this stage.”

Michelle Collins can’t decide what her skincare company is called

  1. Michelle Collins, the former Coronation Street and EastEnders actress, has launched her own skincare range, Pellum Vero. But she can’t decide what her company is called on her website flogging the beauty products.
  2. That is why I called the company M C Skin Truth,” says the TV star on the “My Story” page of http://www.pellumvero.com (screen shot in Figure 1). Yet theres no company with that name registered at Companies House. There is, though, her company M.C Skin Truth Ltd (registered company number: 09690679). But M.C Skin Truth Ltd wasn’t mentioned anywhere, by name or number, when I first looked at the website at the start of June 2018.

    Figure 1. “My Story” page at 7 June 2018

  3. Back then the firm had yet another name on another page: it was identified as MC Skin Truth in the address on the “Contact Us” page (screen shot in Figure 2). MC” is obviously different from “M C” and “M.C”. And, of course, the name doesn’t include “Ltd”. MC Skin Truth also appeared at the foot of the homepage then (screen shot in Figure 3).

    Figure 2. “Contact Us” page at 7 June 2018

    Figure 3. Homepage at 7 June 2018

  4. For the avoidance of doubt, neither M C Skin Truth nor MC Skin Truth was or is identified on the website as a trading name of M.C Skin Truth Ltd. Rather, each was or is presented as the company name.
  5. There was a further problem at the start of the month: a registered company number wasn’t disclosed anywhere on the website.
  6. On 7 June 2018, I sent a message to Ms Collins‘ firm via the form on the website. There I pointed out the problems with the website. The message was successfully sent because I received an automated confirmation (“Your enquiry has been successfully sent to the store owner!”).
  7. I didn’t receive a reply. Nevertheless the “Contact Us” page was duly altered to refer to M.C Skin Truth Ltd, and the relevant company number shown (screen shot in Figure 4). Similarly, M.C Skin Truth Ltd was now at the bottom of the homepage (screen shot in Figure 5). However, Ms Collins continues to state That is why I called the company M C Skin Truthon the “My Story” page (screen shot in Figure 6).

    Figure 4. “Contact Us” page at 15 June 2018

    Figure 5. Homepage at 15 June 2018

    Figure 6. “My Story” page at 20 June 2018

  8. On 15 June 2018, I successfully submitted a second message via the form on the website. There I again requested a response to my first message. But to date nothing.
  9. Theres something else to consider. Incorporated on 17 July 2015, M.C Skin Truth Ltd has filed two sets of accounts at Companies House to date. Both show the company as dormant. Therefore, it’s not obvious from Companies House records alone that M.C Skin Truth Ltd is the active firm behind the TV star’s trading website.
  10. M C Skin Truth. MC Skin Truth. M.C Skin Truth Ltd. Three different versions of the name of Ms Collins’ skincare company all on her online shop. Which, if any, is the right one?