Walker Review of private equity firms will do little to reassure staff, says TUC general secretary Brendan Barber

TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, has welcomed the findings of the Walker Review of Disclosure and Transparency in Private Equity, but said it would do little to reassure the staff of private equity takeover targets and it would not end the debate about private equity.

Sir David Walker, a former Morgan Stanley International chairman, was appointed in March to chair a review charged with looking at ways of improving disclosure and transparency in the private equity sector.

The report, commissioned by the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA), called for private equity firms to show more transparency about finances, but said there is no need for greater regulation.

Walker said that the private equity industry has come to be seen as “needlessly secretive, feeding suspicion and, in some quarters, close to hostility”. But he added: “This review does not see the need for and does not recommend any changes in existing regulatory or legislative provisions on disclosure in the UK.”

Brendan Barber TUC general secretary said that while many of Walker’s proposals were welcomed, it would not end the debate about private equity.

He said the review was simply a proposal for a voluntary code of conduct, while disclosure requirements on public companies are mandatory and enforced by the courts.

He added that it only deals with one controversial aspect of private equity. “It will do nothing to end worries about the wider economic instability threatened by the growth of highly leveraged buyouts.

“And most importantly it will do little to reassure the staff of private equity takeover targets that the quest for short-term returns will not continue to threaten their jobs, pensions and working conditions,” Barber said.

Unions have accused private equity firms for making huge profits by asset-stripping and axing staff.

Grocery chain Sainsbury’s is today facing interest from equity firm Delta Two, based in Qatar. Earlier this year it rejected a bid from private equity firm CVC.

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