Fujitsu has fired its boss at the height of the Horizon scandal – BBC News

  • By Ben Koning
  • Business reporter, BBC News

Image source, Ben Rushton/Australian Financial Review

Image caption, Rod Vawdrey, pictured in December 2020, rings the bell at the Australian Stock Exchange to mark the start of trading in Nuix shares

Fujitsu, the company that built the flawed Horizon IT system, fired a top boss at the height of the scandal.

Rod Vawdrey, 67, was fired as Fujitsu’s global president in 2014 due to personal conduct problems, former colleagues say.

He returned to his native Australia, where he now faces charges for his involvement in a stock market crash that made him millions.

Mr Vawdrey told the BBC he was not involved in the Horizon project.

Mr Vawdrey was in charge of the UK operation from 2011 to 2014 – a pivotal moment in the Horizon scandal.

But if the Horizon issue was discussed by the British administration, Mr Vawdrey must have been aware of it. Companies House documents show he was executive chairman of Fujitsu Services Ltd, the British company, and was a member of the audit and corporate governance committees.

At this point, details began to emerge publicly, with MPs and journalists voicing their concerns. But until 2013, the post office was still prosecuting dozens of people every year based on evidence from the branch’s flawed computer system.

Alarm bells were also ringing internally. In 2013, a lawyer warned the Post Office that a Fujitsu employee gave incomplete evidence in court and did not disclose information about bugs in his depositions.

This was a crucial turning point in the story, but neither Fujitsu nor the Post Office came clean about the problems with Horizon years later, adding to the suffering of the hundreds of people who had been wrongfully convicted.

Mr. Vawdrey was the only Westerner on Fujitsu’s main board, which was responsible for operations outside Japan, including Britain, which was a major market.

Two well-placed former colleagues of Mr Vawdrey told the BBC that he was dismissed by the company “for cause” in early 2014. This was due to personal behavioral issues and nothing related to Horizon, the sources claim, including running into too many problems. expenditure. “Living on the pig,” as someone put it.

One person described his management style as ‘rowdy’, sometimes shouting at colleagues – a ‘bulldog’ or a ‘bully’ depending on which side you were on; the other source agreed.

His tenure was relatively short (just over two years) and Fujitsu’s UK accounts do not show that any severance package was paid to Mr Vawdrey, unlike the multi-million sums paid to outgoing bosses before and after.

Mr Vawdrey will not currently appear at the Horizon inquiry, although it will hear from Duncan Tait, the UK’s chief executive and who reported to him. Foreigners can testify, but the inquiry has no power to compel them unless they return to Britain.

After Fujitsu, Mr Vawdrey moved back to Australia and became involved in another public scandal, which made him a very wealthy man.

After a break, Mr Vawdrey joined what was then a small Australian start-up, a software company called Nuix, and became CEO in 2017.

It was a significant commercial success and launched on the Australian stock exchange in December 2020, the biggest market debut of the year, and many private investors bought into it.

Mr Vawdrey himself immediately took home almost AUS$28 million (£15 million; $18 million) in cash, and was left with a further AUS$8 million in shares.

However, within months the stock price collapsed, causing many investors to suffer major losses.

Mr Vawdrey resigned on June 15, 2021, and the following week Australian police raided the company’s headquarters.

Last year, Rolf Krolke, a former executive turned whistleblower, told an inquiry by the Australian parliament that the Nuix float was a “train wreck waiting to happen.” Nuix said it “rejects” his claims.

The stock exchange regulator, ASIC, is now taking Nuix and its board, including Mr Vawdrey, to court for allegedly “breaching continuous disclosure laws” and “breaching the duties of their director”. The case was heard last December and the court has yet to reach a decision, ASIC said.

In an emailed statement, Nuix said: “Nuix and the relevant directors have disputed the matters that are the subject of the ASIC proceedings.”

Mr Vawdrey said: “I’m not interested in talking to journalists about it [Horizon]I was not involved,” and made no further comment on the detailed allegations leveled against him.

Fujitsu declined to comment.

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