Experts have pointed out that Jacob Rees-Mogg holds a substantial stake in a multi-billion investment fund specialised in emerging markets, while at the same time he is now tasked with finding ‘Brexit opportunities’ in those same countries.
Rees-Mogg is a major shareholder in Somerset Capital, an investment firm he co-founded and focuses on investment projects across emerging markets and major economies.
He reportedly has a 12 per cent stake in the company, which will be reduced to 5 per cent by 2027 under the company’s profit-share scheme.
Although the government has reportedly said Rees-Mogg will not make any decisions “in respect of financial services”, no further details have been provided or reported.
Moreover, Rees-Mogg’s vast investment portfolio in “dozens of sectors across several continents could pose a serious conflict of interest” with his reported intention of axing a thousand regulations when he could stand to benefit personally from the process,” warned Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption.
“Worryingly, the government’s hurried announcement of his new ministerial role fails to even spell out his specific responsibilities, and so the public will be left in the dark as to what exactly Rees-Mogg will be doing on taxpayers’ time, and whether he will stand to benefit personally from any recommendations he makes,” Hawley told the Open Democracy website.
Her views are shared by Steve Goodrich, of Transparency International.
“It’s risky business when ministers hold briefs relating to their personal financial affairs, and even more so when there’s a lot of money at stake,” Goodrich reportedly said.
“In theory, there are rules in place to stop them blurring the lines between their public roles and private interests, yet in practice these have proven to be no more than just words on paper.”
‘Sleeping partner’ with £1.4m in dividends
The CEO of Somerset Capital, Dominic Johnson, said earlier that Rees-Mogg has been a “sleeping partner” for years.
He pointed out that Rees-Mogg stopped taking a salary from Somerset when he joined the government in 2019, although he still is a partner and major shareholder.
Rees-Mogg, believed to be one of the richest MPs, reportedly took an £800,000 dividend from the firm in 2020 and another £600,000 in 2021.
Under parliamentary rules, he does not need to declare the exact amount, just that it is over £70,000, Open Democracy pointed out.
The ministerial code states that “ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests.”
Ministers with shareholdings directly related to their roles are usually expected to either dispose of the shares, which, in Rees-Mogg’s case, could gain him a huge cash sum, or to put them into a blind trust.
It has been reported that Rees-Mogg’s new role largely replaces the Cabinet Office minister position previously held by Lord Frost, whose duties included “coordination of cross-government positions on trade issues”.