EY, the big four accountancy firm, has ended the secondment of one of its employees to the CBI as the business lobbying group grapples with an unfolding crisis over allegations of sexual misconduct.
Sky News has learnt that EY has opted not to renew the secondment of a staff member who was serving as an adviser to the CBI’s president, Brian McBride.
The move underlines how major corporate members of the CBI are seeking to distance themselves from it while an independent investigation into its culture takes place.
In a statement issued to Sky News on Thursday, an EY spokeswoman said: “The most recent EY secondment with the CBI ended in March 2023 and will not be renewed at this time. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The auditing giant had said earlier this week that the allegations about the CBI were “extremely concerning, however we will not be commenting further until the official investigations have been completed and the CBI has responded to the findings”.
An initial probe into claims made about the conduct of Tony Danker, the CBI director-general, is expected to conclude in the coming days, with the findings likely to be published next week.
Further investigations into allegations reported by The Guardian newspaper are being conducted by the law firm Fox Williams and are expected to take longer to finish.
Mr Danker has stepped aside while the inquiry into his behaviour remains ongoing, with Matthew Fell, the CBI’s chief policy director, taking over on an interim basis.
KPMG is also understood to have one executive on secondment to the business group.
The person in question works as an assistant to Mr Danker and is currently on parental leave, according to a CBI insider, with no decision taken yet about whether they will return to the CBI.
Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are understood not to have any staff on secondment to the CBI.
A Deloitte spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the allegations and are awaiting the conclusions of the independent investigation led by an external law firm.”
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The government has suspended engagement with the CBI during the investigations, saying this week: “Given the serious allegations made and the ongoing investigation, the government is pausing engagement by ministers and senior officials with the CBI.
“Routine, technical engagement may still take place on a case-by-case basis, for example if the CBI chooses to respond to open government consultations.”
Sky News revealed on Thursday that Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, had postponed a meeting with the UK’s five leading business groups because of the CBI crisis.
Ms Badenoch has called off her next scheduled talks with the so-called B5, comprising the CBI, Institute of Directors, British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and Make UK.
Insiders said the meeting had been due to take place shortly after parliament returns from Easter recess.
The postponement of the gathering may stoke fears that the crisis which has beset Britain’s biggest employers’ group could have a broader impact on the business community’s engagement with government at a critical time for the economy.
The CBI said this week that it had decided to cancel all external events while an investigation into sexual misconduct and drug-taking allegations reported by The Guardian newspaper was underway.
It declined to comment on the withdrawal of any staff on secondment to it.