A series of presentations showing proposed stakes for two academics dismissed by Swansea University for gross misconduct in the £200m Life Sciences and Wellness Village project have been widely circulated to potential private sector investors, learned a labor court.
The former dean of the university’s School of Management, Professor Clement and his colleague Steven Poole, were fired in 2019 for gross misconduct following a lengthy internal disciplinary process for failing to disclose, as the ‘require university ordinances, proposed stakes in welfare village-related businesses. . They deny any wrongdoing.
They both lost their calls afterwards. Although not related to the ownership structure or capital of the welfare village project, the university’s former vice-chancellor, Professor Richard Davies, was also sacked for gross misconduct. He is not involved in the unfair dismissal case brought by Prof Clement and Mr Poole, in which they represent themselves.
The proposed wellness village project at Delta Lakes in Llanelli follows the signing of a collaboration agreement between the university, Carmarthenshire County Council and private healthcare company Sterling Health – which included be the private sector development partner of the project. The abandoned project, which has been replaced by a completely separate new wellbeing project – Pentre Awel – was seeking £40m City Deal funding for the Swansea Bay City area.
Professor Clement claimed that all of the equity and board membership charts provided by Sterling Health chief executive Franz Dickmann were indeed unrealistic and that future corporate structures should have been created – subject to due diligence and funding.
However, QC acting for Swansea University, James Laddie, told the court’s 13,000-page panel that there was not a single document in which those involved in the project asked Mr Dickmann not to show ownership structures in presentations to third parties, so it could not be passed off as a “figment of his imagination”.
He told the Cardiff court that if the information provided to potential investors, for which discussions have taken place with both HSBC and Lloyds, was knowingly inaccurate, it would amount to fraud.
Cross-examining Professor Clement, Mr Laddie said: ‘Were these presentations shown to third parties to attract investment promises or even indications?
Professor Clément said: “Indications, yes. Mr. Laddie replied: “So they were used to attract funding? Prof Clement said: ‘They were used to start a long and protracted dialogue with potential investors.
Mr Laddie then referred to comments made by Professor Clement during the disciplinary hearing which led to his dismissal from the university, in which he described Mr Dickmann’s emails and presentations as “reckless”.
Mr Laddie said: “You told (the Discipline Committee) that these PowerPoint presentations would go everywhere. They could go to the local authorities and I would be very robust in discussions that Franz you can’t do that. Your response to Paula Carter (panel member) was that we didn’t appear at Companies House, we didn’t take an equity stake and none of that happened…but the team at management and the board of directors be defined to obtain a letter of intent from the banks.
“So what you’re saying there is that you’re effectively excusing the circulation of these inaccurate presentations on the basis that you needed them to get letters of intent from the bank on the funding policy. was an excuse or a reason for Franz Dickmann to use what you previously described as reckless presentations… that to get letters of intent from the banks the board had to be defined, in other words , you had to have names and faces.”
Professor Clément replied: “The letter of intent is a letter that says in principle, subject to due diligence, that this bank might be interested in investing in this vision.
Mr Laddie said: ‘My question is getting a letter of intent based on false information would be fraud, wouldn’t it?
Professor Clement replied: “I’m sure it would, yes.” Mr. Laddie said, “And you wouldn’t do that, would you?” Professor Clement replied: “I would not commit fraud.”
Mr Laddie continued: ‘And because you wouldn’t be committing fraud, we can identify through a process of reverse logical deduction that the information in the presentations was not inaccurate, but was accurate. It’s true isn’t it?
Professor Clement said: ‘I think the information in the diagrams set out a vision and the type of people involved. This was an engagement process with funders and to my knowledge, no letter of intent was generated. The real conversation would start after the collaboration agreement was signed.
Mr Laddie said Prof Clement had previously told the court that the Wellness Village project had attracted ‘big business’. He said: ‘You had already spoken to Siemens, HSBC and Lloyds and they were on board, weren’t they?
Professor Clement said: ‘I don’t know what onboard means. Mr Laddie said: ‘That means they were listed as being on board presentations.’
Professor Clement said: “They entered into early-stage conversations about the potential for investment in the project after the UK and Welsh governments (the City Deal’s backers) concluded their due diligence.”
Referring to Pro Clement’s interview with Sen Gupta QC, who carried out the independent inquiry into his suspension at Swansea University, Mr Laddie said the dismissed academic described Mr Dickmann as ” there trying to finalize the finances”.
He added: “So he was talking to banks, financial houses, venture capitalists and the investment community and they all asked the same question. What is your board and you won’t get investment without defining your board because they are the people we invest in. »
The QC said Prof Clement identified that Dickmann’s poor health became evident in mid-2017.
Mr Laddie then asked: ‘If there is material on there that doesn’t make business sense and may not have the consent of some people, why do you continue to work with him (Dickmann)?
Mr Clement said: “I think Mr Laddie is a very good question. Mr. Dickmann had been, so to speak, the leader of the consortium, but everyone understood that he would not deliver this extraordinary vision. We gave him the respect he deserved and treated him with dignity, but we all understood that the private sector consortium was much more than Mr. Dickmann.
Mr Laddie then asked: “In this case, we would expect to see records of discussions between you and your follow-up travelers in this consortium to the effect of one, expressing concerns about the health of Mr. Dickmann, and two, resolved to continue working with him as a remaining at the helm because the power of the collective could overcome the shortcomings represented by Mr. Dickmann.
Prof Clement said there was much discussion around a ‘presidential’ role which would ‘pay homage’ to Mr Dickmann.
Mr Laddie said: ‘But he was the one going out and attracting investment and funding. He spearheaded this and was not a non-executive presidential figure, he was at this point in an executive role. Wasn’t it?
Do you agree with me in this package with over 13,000 pages of evidence, we do not have a single contemporary document where you, one of your following travelers, can be seen to express health concerns of Mr. Dickmann?
Professor Clement said: “That’s right.”
Prof Clement said he intended to call the university’s former vice-chancellor Prof Davies as a witness, but not former Carmarthenshire Council chief executive Mark James.
The court continues.