What went wrong at the Confederation of British Industry?

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The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) sacked its chief executive with immediate effect on Tuesday after allegations of misconduct rocked the influential business group.

But what is the CBI, what has been alleged and what is set to happen next? Here is what we know.

What is the CBI?

The Confederation of British Industry is one of the most influential business groups in the country.

It claims to represent around 190,000 businesses across the UK, which between them employ nearly seven million people.

The power of the group is clearly visible when looking at the events it hosts throughout the year.

What are the allegations which have rocked the CBI?

Early last month CBI director general Tony Danker stepped aside from his role after a woman employed by the group accused him of making unwanted contact that she said amounted to sexual harassment.

An internal formal complaint had been filed in January and there were several informal reports of concerns over Mr Danker’s behaviour.

He was alleged to have viewed employees’ personal Instagram profiles, sent unwanted messages with sexually suggestive language and made unwanted verbal remarks in the office.

A month after that report was published, the Guardian said that it had been approached by more than a dozen women who claim to be victims of sexual misconduct by senior figures at the CBI.

One said that she had been raped at a staff party on a boat in the Thames.

What has happened since?

Since the first allegations were published in early March, the CBI has launched an investigation into its culture, run by an external law firm.

The allegations from last week added to the flames, and pressure was building on the business group.

According to reports, ministers and senior officials from Government departments have suspended engagement with the CBI, and questions have been raised over the future of the group.

CBI annual conference
Tony Danker became chief executive on the CBI in 2020 (Jacob King/PA)

Mr Danker was appointed to the top job at the CBI in 2020, joining from non-profit organisation Be the Business, a collaboration between the Government and some of the UK’s biggest companies.

Prior to that he had spent seven years as chief strategy officer for Guardian News & Media – the company behind the newspaper of the same name.

He had previously worked as a consultant and as policy adviser in the Cabinet Office and Treasury during Gordon Brown’s time as Prime Minister.

Who is new CBI boss Rain Newton-Smith?

Ms Newton-Smith is technically an external hire for the CBI, joining from Barclays where she was managing director for sustainability strategy and policy.

But she is likely to hit the ground running at the CBI because she spent more than eight years there as chief economist, leaving only last month.

Prior to that she had worked for Oxford Economics, the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

What happens next?

The CBI is not done yet, although the probe into Mr Danker has now ended.

Its lawyers are still investigating the allegations that have come to the fore in recent weeks, with three employees suspended pending further investigations.

The group said that it is liaising with the police and will “cooperate fully” with any investigations.

Meanwhile, it has asked others to keep coming forward with information that might help, and has created a permanent “independent and confidential” way for people to come forward with concerns and complaints about workplace conduct.

It has also appointed a member of its board to lead a root-and-branch review into its culture, governance and processes.

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