Chutzpah, thy name is G4S

Oh, my aching sides. A major G4S shareholder feels hard done by and wants the UK Government to know it:

Neil Woodford, investment manager at Invesco Perpetual, which owns approximately 5pc of G4S’s shares, said the verbal dressing-down delivered to chief executive Nick Buckles at last month’s home affairs select committee meeting was like watching "a medieval persecution".
"If this is the way Parliament wants to treat business, please Parliament, don’t be surprised when businesses decide this isn't the country for them," Mr Woodford said.
First thing, Neil, let's clarify terminology. A medieval persecution could have involved being pressed to extract a plea, being placed in the stocks and pelted with food, perhaps a little pond-ducking if witchcraft were suspected, and finally burning at the stake. Being lectured by sanctimonious MPs may be annoying and tedious, but it's nothing like medieval persecution.

And why was the home affairs select committee in high dudgeon at G4S? Let us refresh our memories on the pre-Olympics security farce:

Home Secretary Theresa May said Monday that G4S had "repeatedly assured us that they would overshoot their target."
"G4S only told the government that they would be unable to meet their contractual arrangements last Wednesday [July 11th, 2 weeks before the Olympics opened] and we took immediate action," she said.
That's not a small error. Suddenly announcing 2 weeks before the Olympics that you are many thousands of people short (and not sure that the ones you have booked will actually turn up) is a weapons-grade cock-up by CEO Nick Buckles. I note that Nick joined G4S in 1985 as a project accountant. Given that he's 52 that implies a 1960 birthdate and therefore he must have joined pretty much immediately after qualifying as an accountant. Perhaps this farce is what happens when your CEO has never really worked anywhere other than your firm.

Neil's concern is understandable (if not a cause for sympathy). G4S reports first-half results on Monday, and I can't see them being anything short of ugly. An outflow of small investors and the resulting plunge in share price will not do Neil's funds any good at all. The three month performance of G4S shares is wonderful to behold. After the plunge from a high of 290 when the bad news came out, it bottomed at 240 and has steadily climbed back up to 265 or so. The last thing Neil wants is a general boycott of G4S by governments Europe-wide.

But what of Neil's concern that businesses may decide that this isn't the country for them? There are many reasons for business to dislike the UK's operating environment, but what of those businesses concerned that when they screw up as badly as G4S they will have their feet held to the legal fire? They flippin' well should be concerned. If they think they could screw up this badly, they shouldn't be in business in the first place.

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