Wednesday, 7 August 2019

PM closed and opaque on GJ Thompson

“The Prime Minister has all but confirmed that GJ Thompson remained the director of his lobbying firm while he worked as her most senior advisor”, ACT Leader David Seymour says.

“She also appears to have set a new standard, saying it’s acceptable to have a conflict of interest as long as it’s temporary.

“Jacinda Ardern has previously said that Mr Thompson took a ‘leave of absence’ as a director and shareholder of Thompson Lewis while he was employed as her chief of staff.

“The problem with Ardern’s claim is that the Companies Act does not allow a director to take a leave of absence. In any case, Companies Office records confirm Mr Thompson remained a director and shareholder throughout this period.

“The PM walked back her previous statements, saying that Thompson only took leave from day-to-day business. But this statement is meaningless. Directors have a duty to act in the best interests of their firm at all times.

“Astonishingly, Ardern also claimed that because Thompson only ran her office for four months, this diminishes the seriousness of the conflict of interest.

“We have an extraordinary situation in which Mr Thompson, whose clients include Huawei, was required by law to keep his firm’s best interests at heart while he had access to all Cabinet papers and the Government’s legislative agenda.

“The biggest question that remains is: Did Thompson have access to briefings and other information that may have benefited his firm and his clients?

“I have asked the Prime Minister whether there were any meetings Mr Thompson did not attend, or any briefings he did not receive, while he was her chief of staff because they related to his clients, including Huawei. She flatly refused to answer.

“I have also asked whether he attended meetings relating to Huawei or the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act. Again, Ardern refused to say.

“This is seriously murky business and the PM has an obligation to voters to clear it up.

“There was huge potential for a conflict between Mr Thompson’s personal interests as a lobbyist for firms such as Huawei and his duties as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.

“If Jacinda Ardern is committed to openness and transparency, she will tell New Zealanders whether her senior most advisor had access to confidential information that could have benefited his firm and his clients.”