"It would be really, really good to see somebody from Thomas Cook say to your customers, your suppliers and your employees, ‘we got it wrong’."
MP Rachel Reeves, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee inquiry into Thomas Cook’s failure, was pulling no punches.
It must have been with a mixture of satisfaction and frustration that the thousands of people owed money by Cook watched former bosses Manny Fontenla-Novoa and Harriet Green squirm as MPs scrutinised whether they played a role in Cook’s downfall (p10).
Of course, neither admitted any culpability. They both at least conceded in retrospect they would do things “differently”. But Fontenla-Novoa was largely unyielding. “I feel I got most of the major decisions right,” he insisted. The committee – and Green – seemed unconvinced.
The real question now is what this inquiry will achieve. Because as the Brexit debacle continues and the threat of a general election looms, there is concern the answer could be very little.
MP Peter Kyle suggested the committee would “try to do a report that either learns the lessons of [Cook] or makes recommendations to the way the private sector and the audit industry is regulated”. But when TTG put the “what next” question to the select committee’s press office, they were unclear, suggesting “external political developments” could delay any kind of conclusion.
This will be scant comfort to the thousands still owed money by Cook. And while apologies can’t pay the bills, a sorry from one – or all – of the former CEOs would at least have been welcome.
Reeves spoke for many as she concluded the inquiry: “A little more humility and introspection about what went on would not [have gone] amiss.”