“It’s all about who you know”: Jeremy Hunt’s accountant boasts of invitation to Foreign Office to meet then foreign secretary

  1. In autumn 2018, Jeremy Hunt‘s accountant, David Grunberg, boasted to his clients about his invitation to the Foreign Office to meet Mr Hunt, the then foreign secretary. Plugging his Brexit advice, Mr Grunberg revealed he’d discussed Brexit with his cabinet-minister client that day.
  2. Mr Grunberg is the founder of accountancy firm Grunberg & Co, where he was until recently the senior partner. He’s now a consultant at the firm, the website shows (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Grunberg & Co website: David Grunberg at 20 February 2020

  3. The founder sends clients of Grunberg & Co a monthly email newsletter, “Financial Therapy – Three Minute session with David Grunberg”.
  4. In October 2018, there Mr Grunberg reported back on his meeting at the Foreign Office with “long-time contact of our firm” Mr Hunt: We had some time to discuss Brexit and the ongoing uncertainty that the country is facing. It was clear that Jeremy understood the fears and concerns of many of our clients, and was able to share some useful thoughts about the progress of the talks, and proposed future arrangements for the UK.” (screen shot in Figure 2) The accountant went on to advertise his – not the foreign secretary‘sreadiness to discuss clients’ “preparations for Brexit”.

    Figure 2. David Grunberg’s “Financial Therapy” newsletter October 2018

  5. Meanwhile, Mr Grunberg couldn’t resist writing again the next month about his meeting with client Mr Hunt in Whitehall, which was only possible because the accountant had “pulled a few strings” (screen shot in Figure 3). He told his readers: “As they say, it’s all about who you know and thankfully as a long-term contact of our firm, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was more than happy to spend time with me.” Mr Grunberg finished with more bragging: “At Grunberg & Co we are constantly meeting with key decision-makers both here in the UK and overseas to ensure that our clients are prepared for whatever the future may bring.” What access to power!

    Figure 3. David Grunberg’s “Financial Therapy” newsletter November 2018

  6. Here Mr Hunt’s conduct undermines public trust and confidence in ministers and government.
  7. It’s surely inappropriate for the foreign secretary to meet his accountant at the Foreign Office to discuss, well, what exactly? They covered “a wide range of matters”, says Mr Grunberg (Figure 2) Suffice to say, the accountant handles Mr Hunt‘s private interests, not government business.
  8. Further, was Mr Grunberg lobbying the senior minister on behalf of another client(s)? The accountant’s boasts about his access to the foreign secretary and other “key decision-makers” risk creating the impression he (Mr Grunberg) acts as a political lobbyist.
  9. Equally, it’s surely inappropriate for Mr Grunberg to use his business relationship with the cabinet minister to promote Grunberg & Co. Why does Mr Hunt allow his accountant to use their business relationship this way?
  10. Now on the back benches, Mr Hunt has recently launched a new venture with Mr Grunberg. Both are trustees of fledgling charity Patient Safety Watch (screen shot in Figure 4). Mr Hunt became a trustee on 18 December 2019, according to the register of MPs’ financial interests. That both are trustees of the same charity is problematic given the two are linked and non-independent. There’s only one other trustee, too: patient safety campaigner James Titcombe.

    Figure 4. Charity Commission website: trustees of Patient Safety Watch at 20 February 2020

  11. What’s more, the chief executive of Patient Safety Watch is one of Mr Hunt’s former ministerial special advisers: Adam Smith. Cosy!
  12. Patient Safety Watch deserves scrutiny for another reason. It represents another corporate reporting failing by Mr Hunt.
  13. Patient Safety Watch is a charitable company, and as such is registered with Companies House, as well as the Charity Commission. Yet the charitable company has failed to report Mr Hunt is a director (trustee) (screen shot in Figure 5). Its a legal requirement for firms to keep their records at Companies House up to date.

    Figure 5. Companies House website: officers of Patient Safety Watch at 20 February 2020

  14. As I say, this isn’t the first time the former cabinet minister has messed up over Companies House filings. On 9 April 2018, I exclusively revealed that the then health secretary hadn’t filed correct “persons with significant control” information for who owned his and his wife’s firm, Mare Pond Properties Limited. Mr Hunt duly corrected the errors straightaway after my email – but didn’t respond to requests for comment. On 13 April 2018, the Daily Telegraph newspaper used my investigation as the basis of its front-page lead story, “Hunt admits breaking rules over luxury flats”. The rest of the national press followed up the story the next day.
  15. Mare Pond Properties Limited and Patient Safety Watch share the same north London registered office address – the head office of Grunberg & Co. The accountancy firm was also the company formation agent for Mare Pond Properties Limited, date of incorporation: 19 September 2017.
  16. Mr Hunt didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment before a reasonable deadline.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards opens inquiry into Jeremy Hunt

  1. On 18 April 2018, Kathryn Stone, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, announced on her website that she has opened an inquiry into health secretary Jeremy Hunt, after he admitted breaching money laundering rules when buying seven luxury flats in Southampton.
  2. The revelations about Mr Hunt that led to the opening of the inquiry were reported in the front-page lead story in the Daily Telegraph newspaper on 13 April 2018 (see 13 April 2018 post). I was named as source of the story in the Telegraph exclusive.
  3. Mr Hunt received a “bulk discount” on the seven flats from a property firm owned and chaired by a Conservative donor, Nicolas James Roach, according to the Guardian newspaper on 19 April 2018.

National newspaper follow-ups of my Jeremy Hunt exposé

  1. Today (14 April 2018) the rest of the national press have followed up yesterday’s Daily Telegraph front-page exclusive on health secretary Jeremy Hunt for which I was source (see previous post).
  2. Here I highlight two reports, where the journalists quoted me, after bothering to speak to me and ask questions. Proper journalism, then.
  3. I told the Daily Mail I was disappointed Mr Hunt simply blamed his accountant for the failures I identified (Daily Mail 14 April 2018).
  4. The Guardian, meanwhile, reported my comments about the lack of scrutiny at Companies House. It seems Companies House is open to potential abuse. Why didn’t it pick up the glaring errors in the details for Mr Hunt’s company? (Guardian 14 April 2018).

Telegraph leads with my Jeremy Hunt exposé

  1. On 13 April 2018, the Daily Telegraph newspaper used my Jeremy Hunt exposé (see previous post) as the basis of its front-page lead story, “Hunt admits breaking rules over luxury flats”.
  2. Im named in the story as source, in the final paragraph on p.2.
  3. Here is a scanned copy of the front-page lead: Telegraph 13 April 2018 p.1. And here is a scanned copy of the rest of the story on p.2: Telegraph 13 April 2018 p.2.
  4. It’s also available online (paywall): https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/04/12/exclusive-jeremy-hunt-admits-breaking-governments-rules-company/.
  5. Er… That’s it.

Jeremy Hunt corrects errors at Companies House after my email – but is unresponsive

  1. I recently discovered errors in Companies House records for a new company jointly owned by health secretary Jeremy Hunt and his wife. The company information was duly corrected the day after I emailed Mr Hunt at parliament. Yet at date of publication the health secretary, or his office, hasn’t responded to requests for comment, which is disappointing.
  2. On 7 March 2018, Mr Hunt registered on the register of MPs’ financial interests joint ownership with his wife of “property holding company” Mare Pond Properties Limited (registered company number: 10970413). At the same time, he also registered purchase by his company of seven flats – just seven – in Southampton the previous month.
  3. On 28 March 2018, I asked the health secretary in an email: If you and your wife are joint owners, why aren’t each of you shown as a person with significant control” (PSC) on your company’s PSC register at Companies House?
  4. There was no PSC, according to his PSC register. (For an explanation of PSC, see http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/PSC.)
  5. I finished by inviting Mr Hunt to comment.
  6. An automated acknowledgement email immediately appeared in my inbox.
  7. The day after my message (i.e. 29 March 2018), his company’s PSC register at Companies House was duly corrected, filings there show.
  8. Having heard nothing a week later, I sent a reminder, now referring to the changes at Companies House, too. Again, I requested a comment.
  9. Straightaway another automated acknowledgement email arrived. But at date of publication there’s been nothing else.
  10. Mr Hunt‘s unresponsiveness is disappointing. The health secretary continually bangs on about how NHS staff and organisations must be open, transparent and accountable – particularly when things go wrong during patient care (“duty of candour”). He’s right, of course. What a pity, then, Mr Hunt fails to practise what he preaches.