Pressure is mounting on WPP to come clean over the real reason for former boss Sir Martin Sorrell’s exit, with Liberal Democrat leader and former business secretary Sir Vince Cable jumping on allegations that Sorrell used company cash to pay for a sex worker.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Sorrell strongly denies the claim and has even started legal proceedings against the newspaper which first published them – the Wall Street Journal – yet WPP is refusing to publish the conclusions of the internal inquiry into the affair.
Cable, who first called for the marketing services giant to fess up last month, said: “It is clear that WPP must publish the report into Sorrell’s departure, if for no other reason than to stop any more rumours. Shareholders should not be kept in the dark. We’re in danger of returning to the City’s worst pre-financial crisis practices. WPP and Sorrell can help prevent a return to that damaging environment that by putting NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and secrecy to one side.”
His comments come ahead of WPP’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday where questions are expected to be raised about Sorrell’s resignation in April. Sorrell has since started a new business.
WPP said the inquiry had concluded, but it cited the hoary old chestnut of “data protection issues” – for not releasing its findings.
As well as the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times has also waded in, alleging that the internal probe was prompted because some staff took their concerns to the chairman, Roberto Quarta.
Sorrell’s spokesman has “strenuously” denied all claims of wrongdoing, but said there was “a non-disclosure agreement when he stepped down which precludes him from discussing any of the circumstances surrounding his departure”.
The spokesman added: “He has rigidly adhered to this obligation and will continue to do so. As regards the allegations which have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Sir Martin strenuously denies them. He will be making no further comment at this time.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office told the BBC that “without the full facts” it was impossible to say if data protection concerns were an issue.
According to reports, Sorrell is poised to receive £14m from WPP, having received £48.1m the year before. He will receive further payments over the next five years as part of his exit deal.
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