07 May 2008
BAE's 'ethics' rhetoric fails to save reputation at AGM
BAE Systems has failed to halt the sharp decline in its reputation despite trying to focus on ethics at its Annual General Meeting in London today. The Board faced a barrage of questions from shareholders about corruption and political influence as they struggled to emphasise yesterday's ethics report by Lord Woolf. The report, commissioned and paid for by BAE, was criticised for making very limited ethical recommendations without looking at past deals or wider questions such as the ethics of arming oppressive regimes.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) held a peaceful protest outside the AGM while CAAT campaigners staged a photo stunt showing BAE trying to sweep the reality of their business under the carpet, following the Woolf report. (Photographs available on request).
CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said:
"BAE's bosses are clutching at straws in a futile attempt to improve their reputation. BAE's chairman Dick Olver is utterly out of touch with public opinion if he expects talk of ethics to be taken seriously from a company that arms dictators around the globe and lobbied the government to drop a criminal investigation into its deals. Olver and his colleagues were at the head of BAE when - as the High Court found - it put pressure on the government to drop the Saudi corruption investigation in 2006. In contrast to BAE's talk, their behaviour suggest that they think that 'ethics' is a county near London."
This was BAE's first AGM since the High Court ruled that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), acting on government advice, had behaved unlawfully in closing down an investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals. BAE's chairman Dick Olver suggested this morning that the SFO may have held insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution. CAAT has pointed out that this appears to contradict the High Court judgment of Lord Justice Moses, who stated that the investigation had been dropped due to a threat from the Saudi regime which took place when the SFO gained access to Swiss bank accounts. The SFO's Director at the time, Robert Wardle, has also accepted that insufficient evidence was not a problem.
1. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters' donations and CAAT is strictly nonviolent in all its work.
2.The Annual General Meeting of BAE Systems took place from 11.00am today at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London SW1.
3.The judgment of the High Court was handed down on 10th April 2008 by Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan, following a judicial review brought by The Corner House and CAAT. They ruled that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), on the advice of the government, had acted unlawfully by terminating an investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals on 14th December 2006, following lobbying by BAE and Saudi representatives. The Saudi regime had threatened to cancel an arms deal and withdraw diplomatic and intelligence co-operation. This was described by the judges as a "successful attempt by a foreign government to pervert the course of justice in the United Kingdom". On 24th April the High Court formally quashed the SFO's decision to terminate the investigation.
4. For more detail on CAAT's response to the Woolf Report, please see /press/press-release.php?url=060508aprs.
5. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview.
6. Photographs of today's protest and photo stunt are available on request.
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