CBI to suspend operations until June after big business exodus amid two separate rape allegations

21 April 2023, 21:57 | Updated: 21 April 2023, 22:14

Business group the CBI says it is suspending all policy and membership work until June after major firms quit the business group or suspended their membership following allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Business group the CBI says it is suspending all policy and membership work until June after major firms quit the business group or suspended their membership following allegations of rape and sexual assault. Picture: Alamy

By Chris Samuel

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said it is suspending all policy and membership work until June after major firms ended their associations with the business group or suspended their membership following allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The exodus from the CBI came after a report that claimed a second woman had made a rape allegation - against two male CBI colleagues.

It is the second rape claim made by a woman at the organisation. Previously, a member of staff alleged that she was attacked by a manager on a summer boat party in 2019.

The CBI said it "shares the shock and revulsion" at the events alleged to have taken place at the organisation.

In a statement, it said: "We want to properly understand from our colleagues, members, experts and stakeholders how they envisage our future role and purpose.

"As a result, we have taken the difficult but necessary decision to suspend all policy and membership activity until an extraordinary general meeting in June.

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"At the EGM we will put forward proposals for a refocused CBI to our membership for them to decide on the future role and purpose of the organisation.

"This work and the cultural reform will be the entire and urgent focus of the organisation over the coming weeks."

Retail giant John Lewis was among the leading firms that quit the membership organisation on Friday, saying it made the decision "due to the further very serious and ongoing allegations".

Read more: 'I never propositioned anybody': Sacked CBI boss Tony Danker says reputation 'totally destroyed'

Aviva, ITV, NatWest, BMW, and Mastercard were among the other high-profile companies that terminated their membership.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical giants GSK and AstraZeneca, Marks & Spencer and several others announced they were putting their membership on hold.

Oil giants Shell and BP are also understood to have suspended their membership with the organisation.

The CBI has seen an exodus of major firms following allegations of sexual assault by employees at the business group
The CBI has seen an exodus of major firms following allegations of sexual assault by employees at the business group. Picture: Alamy

Earlier this month, the Government said it would pause all engagement with the CBI after initial reports of misconduct at the group.

In the Guardian report which deepened the crisis on Friday, the woman claimed the alleged rape took place while she was unconscious following a night out while working at a CBI office abroad.

She said she had no recollection of the alleged attack itself but had described in detail the physical signs that led her to believe she had been raped, and was later presented in the office with an explicit photograph.

It is the second rape claim made by a woman at the organisation.

Previously, a member of staff alleged that she was attacked by a manager on a summer boat party in 2019. Details of the new rape allegation have been passed to police.

City of London Police were already investigating the previous allegation, alongside a series of other misconduct claims from about a dozen workers.

Separately, The Guardian also reported on Friday that a woman based at the organisation's London office claimed she was stalked by a male colleague in 2018.

Separately, former CBI director-general Tony Danker was sacked last week after being accused of making unwanted contact with a woman who works for the organisation.

On Wednesday, he said his reputation has been "totally destroyed" by the allegation and claimed he has been made a "fall guy" for a wider crisis.

Mr Danker told the BBC his name had been wrongly associated with separate claims, including the rapes which allegedly happened before he joined the CBI.

After initial allegations, the business group also suspended three other employees and hired law firm Fox Williams to carry out an internal investigation.

John Lewis was among the various high-profile firms that announced they were quitting the CBI
John Lewis was among the various high-profile firms that announced they were quitting the CBI. Picture: Alamy

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