Imran Gulamhuseinwala, trustee of the Open Banking Implementation Entity, is the subject of an independent inquiry for the CMA
Credit: Morgan Silk
The competition regulator is probing a slew of allegations of bullying, sexism and intimidation against the head of the unit it set up to deliver a tech revolution in Britain’s banking sector.
Directors at the Competition and Markets Authority are examining an independent inquiry into claims against Imran Gulamhuseinwala, the trustee of the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE).
The initiative, championed by George Osborne, chancellor at the time, was established with industry funding in 2016 to boost innovation and fintech start-ups by encouraging big banks to share customer information.
Now as many as 49 witnesses have alleged that a culture of bullying, intimidation and sexism exists at the OBIE. They cited incidents where Mr Gulamhuseinwala and other managers allegedly swore and shouted at colleagues.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, is leading an emergency board committee alongside non-executive Jonathan Scott, a former senior partner at the City law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. They have been tasked with deciding the “appropriate action to take”, according to documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph.
It comes after the regulator last year hired the City law firm Mishcon de Reya to investigate an “extremely serious” allegation of bullying made against Mr Gulamhuseinwala, who was paid £500,000 in 2019. Dozens of witnesses came forward and the inquiry dragged on for 10 months. The final report is said to run to about 350 pages.
The Mishcon report was passed on to a CMA external oversight committee, led by Alison White, an independent chairman. Ms White has reviewed the report and has submitted it along with her recommendations to Mr Coscelli, Mr Scott and Cynthia Dubin, a non-executive director of the CMA and third member of the emergency committee.
A CMA spokesman said it had “decided an independent investigation was needed in response to serious allegations about the OBIE. The CMA has received the findings of this investigation and is finalising the appropriate next steps.”
The regulator conducted its own internal investigation into claims of misconduct. Its provisional report, which The Telegraph has seen, found there was “no compelling evidence” Mr Gulamhuseinwala failed in his duty to ensure the organisation was “properly managed”. He remains the trustee of the OBIE and denies the allegations.
However, the CMA’s internal report added that “the position was inconclusive in relation to gender balance and the organisational culture that prevailed at the time of the events giving rise to the complaint”.
It also included comments attributed to 19 former OBIE contractors.
One said: “In the case of one individual, he openly and aggressively shouted at women, invading their personal space and threatening them. Multiple complaints from different women led to no action and he remained in post for several months until he was ready to launch his own business.”
One male contractor said: “I’ve never worked anywhere with such a shameless bullying culture.”
A spokesman for the OBIE said: “We recognise that the CMA needs to determine the merits of any historical concerns raised and we have provided our full support and cooperation to the independent review. We await the final report.”