The Energy Minister, Her Brother-in-Law, His Hedge Fund and the Oil Investments

The rise of Andrea Leadsom to energy minister has correlated with generous donations to the Conservative party by Peter de Putron, a mysterious hedge fund guru – and her brother-in-law.

Leadsom was appointed energy and climate change minister in the wake of the Conservatives’ shock victory at the general election. She replaced Amber Rudd – who has been promoted to secretary of state.

De Putron, her brother-in-law and former employer, has donated £816,000 to the Conservative party since she first became an MP in the 2010 election. He has also provided funds for her local constituency party and further cash to pay for the staff in her office.

Leadsom’s rise to the top has been steady. She was the managing director of De Putron Fund Management in the 1990s, according to Who’s Who.

Oil and Gas Interests

She was, more recently, head of corporate governance and senior investment officer at Invesco Perpetual, one of Britain’s largest retail fund managers.

Invesco holds £3m of investments in Amerisur Resources, an oil and gas producer, and a further £2.8m of investments in Hunting, which supplies the oil industry, among other fossil fuel interests. Leadsom was not involved in the investment decisions of the company. 

Leadsom was then elected as Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire in May 2010. That same year, De Putron, who is married to her sister, Hayley, donated £200,000 to the Tories.

The following year, he donated a further £66,600, then £155,500 in 2012, before increasing his largess to £204,760 the year after. He paid a further £300,000 to the Conservatives’ backed “no to voting reform” campaign, and £680,000 to the Cameron-friendly think tank Open Europe.

Labyrinthine Corporation

The money was paid through the UK-registered Gloucester Research Limited, which underwent several name changes before becoming GR Software and Research Limited. Ben Leadsom - Andrea’s husband - was a director of the company but has since resigned.

De Putron, who has registered an address of Avenue Du Manoir Ville Au Roi in Guernsey, earns his keep through a rather labyrinthine off-shore company structure, which has made it impossible to ascertain who his clients are, and whether they are investing in the energy sector.

The minister’s brother-in-law was founder of London-registered De Putron Fund Management LLP. According to Bloomberg Business, the company was known from 2010 as Bell Rock Capital Management LLP. The company has been described by the Financial Times as “secretive”.

The highest paid member of the Bell Rock partnership received £2,114,950 in 2013, while Guernsey-registered De Putron Fund Management Limited received £774,837 in fees and almost £30,000 in recharged expenses during the same year.

No Public Profile

To complicate matters further, Bell Rock received its entire turnover for the year from Airain Limited, which is based in St Peter Port, Guernsey. This company appears to have no public profile.

Airain Limited was described as “a multi-jurisdictional enterprise using innovative technology to trade financial securities” during a recent employment tribunal.

Moreover, it emerged that Airain has recruited staff at national bridge tournaments, and employees are “required to observe stringent security and privacy protocols” because of the “valuable ‘intellectual property’ of the software employed”.

A website called Whale Wisdom provides information used to track hedge funds and asset managers taken from 13F forms - a list of holdings filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States.

According to this site, a company called Airain Limited based in St Peter Port held stocks in oil and gas related companies including ExxonMobil, World Fuel Services, and National Oilwell Varco. Indeed, it appears that about 13 percent of their declared holdings were in energy stocks. They also declare holdings in Altria - which owns tobacco giaint Philip Morris USA.  

Carolynne Hayley de Putron, known as Hayley, is Andrea’s sister and De Putron’s wife. She is a trustee of the Ana Leaf Foundation and founder of the De Putron Challenge for schoolchildren.

Client Leak

The Guardian reported that the family relationships became apparent to its reporters after a leak of client information from a discreet Jersey off-shore private bank. The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with the newspaper.

A Conservative Party spokesman told DeSmog UK on Friday: “All donations to Ms Leadsom's office and to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and fully comply with Electoral Commission rules. Any suggestion of impropriety by Ms Leadsom or the party is malicious and defamatory and will be treated as such.”

@brendanmontague

Photo: Policy Exchange via Flickr