Lex Greensill may have misled parliament when he said his company did not lend money to its shareholders, two MPs have said, pointing to a €300m loan that Greensill Capital made to its private equity backer General Atlantic.
Labour’s Angela Eagle and Conservative Harriett Baldwin raised the concerns after Greensill told a Treasury select committee hearing on Tuesday that “none of the two large institutional shareholders that we have borrowed money from Greensill Capital”.
The largest institutions backing Greensill were US-based General Atlantic and Japan’s SoftBank. General Atlantic bought a minority stake in the UK supply-chain finance company in 2018 and borrowed €300m from it the following year.
Greensill’s remarks “raise concerns about the potential for having misled parliament”, Eagle said.
“He’s flatly denied that any shareholders in Greensill were lent money, when it’s clear that they lent General Atlantic money, so I would want him to correct the record and explain his replies,” she said.
Baldwin said it was “possible that Mr Greensill did not have a full recollection of all of these instances” of what she called “close relationships” that “do not to me seem to pass a smell test”.
“I’m sure that he would not wish to have inadvertently misled the committee, and he may wish when he sends us further written evidence to correct the record,” she said.
Both MPs are members of the committee investigating the collapse of Greensill Capital, a once hotly-valued supply-chain finance group that has become a financial and political scandal embroiling David Cameron, the former British prime minister who became a paid adviser, and GFG Alliance, a metals group left teetering after the insolvency of its biggest lender.
Lex Greensill told the FT: “I would be happy to provide further clarification or explanation of my testimony given yesterday if asked to do so by the Treasury select committee or any of its members.”
Internal Greensill documents relating to the General Atlantic loan say Lex Greensill was the “relationship owner” and describe the deal as a chance for the now-collapsed group to “strengthen its relationship with a significant sponsor”. The private equity group has since refinanced the loan in an expensive arrangement with Goldman Sachs.
In response to Baldwin’s questions during the hearing, Greensill initially said there were no cases of businesses that were both using his company’s supply-chain finance product and also investing in Greensill Capital, or in the funds through which the supply-chain finance deals were sold on to investors.
When Baldwin challenged him with a Bloomberg report that said Vodafone had invested in the funds that profited from its own late payments, he said he had “forgotten that one instance”.
However, he stressed, there were no cases where “people were invested in the equity of Greensill Capital and we were then financing the same company”.
Eagle also raised concerns about Greensill’s statement during the hearing that he had “never heard of the concept” of “prospective receivables”.
“I have read about it in the Financial Times,” he told MPs. “If you were to look at the documentation relating to any of our facilities, you would never see those words appear.”
However, filings in a US lawsuit against Greensill Capital by one of its clients, Bluestone Resources, say that documentation agreed between the two in 2018 includes the phrase “prospective receivables”.
Under the arrangement, Greensill would lend money to Bluestone based on the prospect that it may in the future sell goods to specified companies, including those that “were not and might not ever become customers of Bluestone”, the Bluestone court filings say.
Sanjeev Gupta, the metals magnate whose GFG Alliance borrowed from Greensill, said in a letter to the FT published last month that it did so under “prospective receivables” programmes.
“I think it’s a very convenient loss of memory,” Eagle said. “You would think of future receivables as, I will pay my council tax bill every month and I know what it’s going to be, so that’s predictable future outgoing rather than a receivable.
“But what they’ve turned it into is just fantasy. At some stage, in some possible future, in a possible parallel universe, I might do business with this company. There’s no way that should be allowed.”