News Column

Heavy-handed G4S guards give shareholders a scare at AGM

June 8, 2014

G4S director of media relations (and former BBC war reporter) Adam Mynott took headline billing at a conference on crisis communications last summer. Among his top tips for City spinners were these sage words: "Your best crisis work is done before the crisis happens."

A hard-learned lesson for G4S following its shambolic handling of security for the London 2012 Olympics, when it left it to the last minute to warn the government that it would not be able to provide all the 13,700 guards it had promised.

G4S's failure cost it pounds 88m and further damaged its already threadbare reputation following the death of an Angolan man during his deportation in the custody of three G4S guards.

The board took Mynott's pre-crisis planning advice this week by drafting in 29 security guards and other personnel to cover its AGM following the threat of peaceful protests by shareholders and activists concerned about the company supplying prisons in Israel and the West Bank.

It worked, sort of. More than a dozen activists were dragged from the meeting in London's ExCel centre by the burly, but well-dressed, guards before they had a chance to begin a protest.

Many shareholders were shocked to see first-hand the violent methods their company uses to make some of its pounds 56m annual profits. Shamiul Joarder, a proxy shareholder, summed it up best in a speech directed at the company's board - which includes former defence and home secretary Lord Reid. "What really worries me is this is the AGM: this is the creme de la creme. It doesn't bode well for how G4S deals with people on the ground if the board allows this behaviour."

John Connolly, G4S's chairman, did nothing to reassure Joarder or other shaken and concerned shareholders.

"If someone refuses to leave and lies down on the floor they will be assisted to leave," he said. "How else do you get someone to leave if they continue [to protest] without helping them out?"

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Source: Observer (UK)

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