Goldmanfinger: Ex-spymaster Alex Younger joins investment bank

Former Secret Intelligence Service boss will advise Goldman Sachs and its clients on geopolitics, international risk and cyber-related issues
Sir Alex Younger Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/PA Images

By Jim Dunton

13 Aug 2021

Former Secret Intelligence Service chief Sir Alex Younger has joined the investment bank Goldman Sachs as an adviser on geopolitics, international risk and cyber-related issues, it has emerged.

Younger, who stood down from his previous role nine months ago, joined the firm last month but details only emerged when anti-corruption watchdog the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments published its advice letter endorsing the move this week.

Like other former crown servants, Younger is bound by the government’s business appointments rules for erstwhile senior officials – which apply for two years after top civil servants leave office.

Acoba said that as the head of the UK’s intelligence services, Younger would have had access to a range of particularly sensitive information on geopolitics, international risk and  cyber issues, meaning his appointment could offer Goldman Sachs an “unfair advantage” over its rivals.

“It might appear as though he can offer the inside track on at risk investments and the most profitable companies or areas to invest in,” Acoba’s advice letter said.

It noted that Younger’s seniority and influence in government and Whitehall meant there was also “a risk it could be perceived his network and influence might assist Goldman Sachs unfairly”.

Acoba added that Younger may be asked to advise clients who were affected by matters of policy that related to policy areas or operational matters he had direct involvement with during his time in government.

But the committee said it was satisfied with assurances from Younger that he had no meetings with Goldman Sachs while he was in office – and that there was no relationship between the firm, the SIS, or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – meaning his new role could not be viewed as a reward for past assistance.

The SIS, FCDO and the Cabinet Office all confirmed that they had no issue with Younger taking up the role with Goldmans, Acoba said.

Younger is bound by the usual business appointment rules which bar former senior officials from lobbying government on behalf of their new employers for two years from their last day in office.

He will also be required to avoid drawing on privileged information obtained during his time in government.

Additionally, Acoba imposed an extra restriction on Younger’s appointment with Goldman Sachs that it said reflected the “unknown nature” of the global business’ clients.

It says: “Sir Alex should not advise Goldman Sachs or its clients on work with regard to any policy or operational matter he had specific involvement or responsibility for as chief of the SIS.”

Manzoni cleared to take up new consultancy role

Former civil service chief executive Sir John Manzoni has also been cleared to take up a new consultancy role,  documents released this week reveal.

An advice letter from Acoba, also published on Wednesday, endorsed Manzoni’s request to work part time for strategic adviser Newton Europe, which offers services related to central government, healthcare and manufacturing,  among other topics.

Manzoni told the watchdog he did not expect to have any direct involvement with government as part of his work for the firm, but would provide “general advice” on its proposals and approach to structuring and solving problems.

Acoba noted Manzoni attested he had no dealings with Newton Europe during his time in government. However it said the firm now had a contractual relationship with the Cabinet Office that began in May 2020.

Manzoni stood down as civil service chief executive and Cabinet Office perm sec in April 2020.

His other post-government roles include chairing the boards of energy company SSE and the Atomic Weapons Establishment, serving as a non-executive director of global drinks firm Diageo, and working for Chair Mentors International.

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