Tech firm C3.ai met with health ministers after employing former Chancellor Sajid Javid for £13K per day

Sajid Javid was part of C3.ai’s global advisory board (Image: Mark Hall)Sajid Javid was part of C3.ai’s global advisory board (Image: Mark Hall)
Sajid Javid was part of C3.ai’s global advisory board (Image: Mark Hall) | Image: Mark Hall
C3.ai paid former chancellor Sajid Javid more than £13,000 per day before he returned to ministerial office

A tech company which paid Sajid Javid more than £13,000 per day before he became Health Secretary met with ministers at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) on two occasions last year, NationalWorld can reveal.

California-based C3.ai met with Robert Jenrick, who was minister of state at DHSC at the time, in September 2022. The firm also met with current health secretary Steve Barclay in December. The multi-billion dollar AI company had previously employed Sajid Javid after he resigned as Chancellor, between October 2020 and June 2021, until he returned to the Cabinet to serve as Health Secretary – although he had left the department by the time the meeting took place.

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Experts have raised concerns that the “revolving door” between government and the private sector “creates the risk of conflicts of interest,” with a former MP calling for the government appointments watchdog’s remit to be widened to scrutinise the ‘second jobs’ of incoming ministers.

Javid described the potential benefits of AI technology within the healthcare system during his time as Health Secretary, prompting Labour to raise concerns at the time over the  potential for conflicts of interest, due to C3.ai’s work on AI technology in healthcare settings.

In addition, C3.ai is a client of two Conservative-linked lobbying firms, including CT Group, run by longtime Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby, and which Mark Fullbrook, who was serving as Liz Truss’ Downing Street chief of staff at the time the first meeting took place, retains a stake in. Fullbrook stepped down as a director last year to set up his own firm.

NationalWorld asked DHSC and Sajid Javid’s office whether the former minister had any part in organising the meeting. DHSC declined to comment, and Javid’s office failed to respond.

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Calls for a ‘strengthened Acoba’

After resigning as Chancellor in February 2020, Javid took on two ‘second' jobs, including a role with global investment bank JP Morgan. He also took on a role with C3.ai.

Javid sought advice from the Advisory Council on Business Appointments (Acoba), the government watchdog which gives advice to former ministers and officials looking to take up roles in the private sector. At the time, Acoba did not raise any particular concerns about the C3.ai role, as neither Javid or the Treasury had had dealings with the firm.

Javid was part of C3.ai’s global advisory board between 22 October 2020 and 26 June 2021. He described the role as providing “advice on the global economy, geo-politics and market opportunities”. He was paid £151,835 per year plus “an option for 666.7 common shares per month,” in exchange for approximately 11 days per year - meaning he was paid around £13,800 per working day.

This does not include the value of the share options, which Javid estimated at an approximate value of £45,000 per month, according to his entry in the register of members’ financial interests. It is unclear whether Javid exercised these share options, and whether he maintains any shareholding in the company at present. Javid did not respond to a request for comment on this article.

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C3.ai is a global technology firm which provides AI applications for governments and large businesses across a number of sectors, including arms manufacture, financial services, energy and healthcare.

On 26 June 2021, after Matt Hancock resigned as Health Secretary over a high-profile breach of Covid guidelines, Sajid Javid returned to government to take over the role.

While Acoba is tasked with providing public scrutiny and advice for outgoing ministers taking up private sector roles, there is no equivalent public-facing process for when MPs take up ministerial roles. The ministerial code of conduct states that it is the “personal responsibility of each minister to decide whether and what action is needed to avoid a conflict or the perception of a conflict”.

When ministers take up a new role, they must provide the relevant department’s permanent secretary with “a full list in writing of all interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict,” although this is not always published in full.

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Speaking to NationalWorld, former MP and director of Unlock Democracy, Tom Brake, said Acoba’s role could be expanded to scrutinise this kind of appointment publicly.

"In the last couple of years the revolving door that sees ministers leave government, return to the backbenches and take up second jobs in the private sector has been spinning so fast that some MPs are being thrown back into Ministerial positions, sometimes in departments closely connected to their very recent private sector roles,” he said.

"This creates the risk of conflicts of interest, both real and perceived.

"The solution could be a strengthened Acoba, responsible for assessing the suitability of future ministers for departmental positions, alongside Acoba’s present remit which is assessing whether former ministers can be authorised to accept new roles in the private sector.”

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Photo: Mark Hall

‘Swings of the revolving door’

In September 2021, Javid talked up the benefits of AI within the health sector, saying the technology could be used to shorten NHS waiting lists. Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote to the government’s ethics adviser at the time raising concerns that this intervention “could clearly be perceived as beneficial to an AI company”.

At the time, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: “The secretary of state has acted in line with the ministerial code and has properly declared these share options in the usual way.”

The Guardian reported that aides claimed Javid had started the process of divesting himself of the options when he became health secretary, but that the process was difficult because the market for share options was not very liquid.

Javid resigned as Health Secretary on 5 July 2022. Alongside Rishi Sunak he was the first of several cabinet members to resign, prompting the eventual downfall of Boris Johnson. Javid has since confirmed that he will not contest his Bromsgrove seat at the next election, amid speculation he will return to work in banking.

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C3.ai lists healthcare as one of its primary industries on its website.

In September 2022, during Liz Truss’ tenure as Prime Minister, C3.ai met with Robert Jenrick while he was serving as minister of state at DHSC. According to government transparency releases, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “innovation in the NHS”.

NationalWorld contacted the DHSC about this meeting, but a spokesperson declined to provide any further detail on what was discussed at the meeting, and did not respond when asked whether the meeting came about following an introduction by Javid.

A further meeting between C3.ai and the current Health Secretary Steve Barclay took place on 7 December, with the purpose of the meeting described as “to discuss uses of AI in healthcare”.

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Rose Whiffen, research officer at Transparency International, said: “Swings of the ‘revolving door’ that see officials and MPs move in and out of the private sector can foster cosy relationships with businesses and risk decision makers prioritising the needs of private interests over the public good.

“When MPs move back into government after employment in the private sector, it’s paramount they work closely with Downing Street’s ethics adviser to ensure there is no conflict – or a perception of conflict - between their previous and current roles.

“Recent events have highlighted the importance of transparency over ministers’ interests, but 100 days after the government took office this information has still not been made public. It should be published without delay.”

C3.ai and Conservative-linked lobbyists

According to the most recent filings in the lobbying consultant register, C3.ai is a client of CT Partners and the related CT Solutions and Private Advisory, both part of the CT Group. The CT Group has long standing links with the Conservative Party through its founder Lynton Crosby. Mark Fullbrook was a central figure in CT Group until he left as a director in March 2022, but The Guardian reported in September 2022 that he retained a 10% stake in the firm, worth millions and entitling him to dividend payments.

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At the time of the meeting with Jenrick, Fullbrook was Liz Truss’ Downing Street chief of staff. The lobbying register states that C3.ai was not a client of CT Consulting between July and September, but was from October to December - when the meeting with Barclay took place.

C3.ai is also a public affairs client of the Conservative-linked lobbying firm Hanbury Strategy.

Responding to an initial enquiry about the meeting with Jenrick, a spokesman for CT said: “CT was not engaged by C3.ai at the time of this meeting and was not involved in it in any way.

“While Mark Fullbrook retains shares in CT Group Holdings he has no control, influence over nor indeed knowledge of the Group’s business activities and had no entitlement to payment of dividends arising while he was in No 10. This was purposely done before he took the position to ensure there was no conflict of interest, actual or perceived, and no financial benefit. To claim otherwise would be completely wrong and deliberately misleading. As you can see from the lobby register, all communication with government as part of CT’s business activities are declared as per the relevant regulations.”

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