Most of us here in GB&NI who are observant, apathetic or even just plain bored, will be aware, abundantly aware, if the six-odd pages of today’s Telegraph are anything to go by: of the accusations and machinations of the charges and counter-charges of sexual abuse and bullying behaviour allegedly attributed to Sir Philip Green.
As I have no personal knowledge of Sir Philip’s habits or manner of conducting himself during business hours, I must obviously be guided by what has been published about this businessman. According to the large and detailed, but still legally anonymised, set of accusations against this man, he almost routinely attempts to dominate the staff around him, and also to denigrate any who either oppose him in any way at all; as well as indulging in behaviour which might go without murmur in past decades, but is very much frowned upon in these more litigious days.
Whether he is guilty of these accusations is for the courts to decide, and that is my singular point. All of these employees took great exception to being either allegedly manhandled, groped; or subjected to verbal abuse of the worst kind. They complained through the HR (Human Resources) department (which is, of course, the fancy new title for Personnel). Their complaints were taken seriously, and in the case of the five persons who form the basis of the Telegraph’s campaign against Sir Philip, seriously enough to warrant a pay-out of hundreds of thousands of pounds. They were also required to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA), legally drawn-up and of course; legally binding. The Telegraph’s campaign is based on the inability of these five people to break those agreements, and then speak out against Sir Philip Green within (presumably) the columns of the Telegraph.
But there is another side to this toxic story. As far as I am aware, if these people felt strongly enough about Sir Philip’s actions or words, they could have gone to the police. If the actions, and allegations were of such a serious nature, they could have gone to their local Police Stations, and levelled those accusations against their employer, and Sir Philip would have had to answer, through the courts, if such actions, alleged or proven, were found to be criminal. They could have gone to the Police, but instead they allowed themselves to be bought off; with sums which, to the average Briton, may sound stratospheric, but, in the worlds of such as Sir Philip Green, are mere chump change. And that, folks, is the story in a nutshell, which the Telegraph is attempting to make into such a ‘big thing’.
These people may have feared for their jobs, but instead of having the moral courage to stand their ground, and force their employer to brought up on charges; they chickened out, took the money; and stayed Schtum. Instead of having the courage to stand with their convictions and principles, they buckled, accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds to settle their grievances, and signed up to the NDA placed in front of them. They all knew exactly what was placed in front of them; they all had legal advisers; in other words, no-one forced them to sign anything! The Telegraph, acting in the alleged cause of ‘fearless’ journalism, got hold of the story, and, as they tell it; advised Green that they had got hold of these five people who were legally silenced: and stated that they were running with the story, incomplete though it naturally was.
Sir Philip Green’s solicitors, a truly litigious bunch named Schillings, slammed an Injunction in the High Court, attempting to silence the Telegraph. After a long and vicious fight, done through letters, emails and legal exchanges, the High Court accepted the withdrawal of Sir Philip’s Injunction; but the Court also stated that the NDA’s were still valid, and if any of the five spoke out, removing anonymity, Sir Philip’s lawyers would and could proceed to demand all the cash back again, citing plain breach of contract, as well as other legal threats.
Now I have, in years long gone, come up against similar bullies, because that is what Sir Philip Green sounds like, although I again state that i have no personal knowledge of this particular man. But there is a type, and I have met them before. I was commissioning a large commercial project many years ago, and, for some reason, impressed the man, the managing director at the top of the developer’s team. He met me, and offered me a job on his management team, at three times the salary I was pulling down at that time. He stated that I could name my own terms, he wanted me because he could tell that I knew not only my job, but many other facets of engineering. I turned him down flat. He asked me ‘why’; presumably unused to being turned down for anything? I replied that he and I would last for approximately two minutes: he wanted someone who, when told ‘Jump’: asks “How High”! I would have turned around, and told him to “get stuffed’. I had watched him in action at Site Meetings, and if he had spoken to me in the manner he spoke to his underlings, he would have ended up in the casualty department of the nearest hospital.
But back to the Telegraph, and its attempted character assassination of Sir Philip. It is attempting to make a story out of rumour and hypothesis, and urging the people who were enriched by those NDAs to spurn the cash, and speak out. The only questions, truly, are ‘why did they take the cash in the first place?’ as well as ‘If Sir Philip’s actions and words were so terribly, terribly wrong, why not go to the police, instead of signing on the dotted line: and then attempt to be heard any way?’
Its an old semi-legal term, but still applies today: ‘You canna’ have your cake, and eat it as well: chummy!’