The chairman of Nex Group has reimbursed the company out of his own pocket for political donations targeting Liberal Democrat MPs at the General Election after major shareholder representatives objected.
Vince Cable’s Twickenham seat was among the targets of five separate £5,000 donations by the electronic trading firm to candidates in tight marginals between Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates.
Charles Gregson repaid the £25,000 after shareholder groups including Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and the Investment Association disapproved of the political donations.
Other seats targeted by the donations included Kingston and Surbiton, where former Lib Dem government minister Ed Davey returned to Parliament, and Cheltenham, where Conservative MP Alex Chalk successfully defended his seat.
The Lib Dem’s Wera Hobhouse also gained her Bath seat from Conservative Ben Howlett, while in Thornbury and Yate Luke Hall held his seat for the Tories.
The company, formerly part of Icap, said it would not offer political donations in the future. Its founder and chief executive, Michael Spencer, is a prominent Conservative donor.
In a statement Nex said the donations were “an initiative by the company’s chairman”. They were “approved by the board as being in the best interest of the company and its shareholders”, the statement added.
Nex added: “After consultation with shareholders and governance groups, it is clear that a number of them are opposed to public companies making modest political donations, even when supported by a strong business case.”
Corporate political donations are legal in the UK and the US, unlike in some other nations such as France. However, corporate governance groups such as the International Corporate Governance Network are wary of the practice.