ALEX BRUMMER: Sending Mike Lynch off to the US may be the only way of seeing justice done
Mike Lynch’s long legal and media campaign, to avoid extradition to the US over fraud allegations arising from the £7.6billion sale of his software group Autonomy to Hewlett Packard, is running out of rope.
The software tycoon is more than aware that American regulators, prosecutors and courts are far less forgiving of white collar and financial misdeeds than their British counterparts.
Watchers of financial fiction, from The Wolf of Wall Street to Billions and Succession, will be familiar with the cold chills of the principals when windcheater-clad FBI teams arrive on the trading floor.
Wanted: Software tycoon Mike Lynch is aware that American regulators, prosecutors and courts take a far less forgiving approach to white collar crime than their British counterparts
US financial justice recently was seen in action with the conviction of well-connected Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes over the implosion of her biotech start-up Theranos. Lynch’s fate now rests with Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The Autonomy founder’s case against extradition is based on legal niceties as well as substance. Britain’s extradition treaty with the US was designed to bring terrorists to justice not financial offenders.
It was used in similar circumstances with the Natwest Three. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) declined to prosecute in the UK and the Three were eventually convicted in the US as part of the fallout from the Enron scandal.
Lynch’s substantive point is that his former colleague and Autonomy financial officer Sushovan Hussain, who was convicted in the US in 2019, was not fairly tried. Defence witnesses failed to appear because they feared arrest.
It would be much better if the trial was held in Britain – trying the case in the UK would serve as a deterrent to others.
That horse bolted in 2015 when the SFO said that its Autonomy/HP investigation was closed.
The barriers to successful fraud and accounting cases brought against individuals in Britain are inordinately high even if the company is found wanting – as in the accounting debacle at Tesco in 2014.
There needs to be no reminder of how slowly the wheels of UK City justice move.
The drawn-out saga over management culpability for the HBOS failure in 2008 goes on, and the slow-motion probe of the implosion in Neil Woodford’s financial empire in 2019 has yet to reach first base.
Sending Mike Lynch off to the US may seem extreme. But it may be the only way of seeing justice done.
Never has the need for new nuclear been more obvious.
Surging wholesale gas and oil prices and the confrontation between Russia and Nato have underlined why Britain’s just-in-time energy supply chain, with virtually no gas storage, has left the nation vulnerable to ‘brown-outs’ and turbulent prices.
New nuclear isn’t going to happen quickly. EDF’s Hinkley Point won’t be finished until at least 2025 and if previous, less complex big infrastructure projects are a clue, much later.
Nevertheless, the Government has recognised the importance of developing a nuclear baseload, hence the £210million put into Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactors.
Now, a further £100million has been paid towards a new reactor at Sizewell C. The dragon from the past – of the Government refusing to use its balance sheet to back valuable projects – has been slain with backing for Sizewell and British Volt.
Nuclear eventually will assist the UK in hitting Cop26 carbon emission targets but does not address current energy needs.
Granting new North Sea licences to BP and backing the new Cambo field in Shetland would deliver more quickly, and storage needs to be bolstered.
Waiting for new nuclear is not enough.
The great challenge for publisher Bloomsbury is what to do when its one-person creative industry, aka JK Rowling, loses special powers.
Harry Potter has been its mainstay but there is some concern that the author’s failure to follow the woke agenda over transgender rights might affect her hold over teenage readers.
It doesn’t seem to have done the Potter brand any harm at theme parks or on Broadway. Currently supportive at Bloomsbury is Tanzanian Nobel prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah.
A tilt towards online academic publishing through the recent purchase of California-based Abc-Clio also helps.
An upbeat projection for future sales sent the shares sharply higher.
There is still magic to be conjured.