When I was asked to write a piece for the Guardian about the GSK scandal, my first thought was that it would be nice to know Richard Sykes’ response to the court decision, given that at least some of what GSK is being punished for happened under his watch. Lacking the time to hunt him down, I hoped someone else might do that subsequently. They have. The result is quite astonishing. As the Observer also reports this weekend, he tells us that “I have not had a chance to read the newspapers and have not a clue as to what is going on.”
Is this a joke? Sykes is a busy man, but we are being asked to believe that a law case that has been dragging on for years, involving extremely serious malpractice and resulting in a $3 bn settlement, against the company of which he was chairman during at least part of the relevant period, has somehow passed him by, so that he’s now in the same position as the rest of us in having to read all about it in the papers – and that he hasn’t quite got round to that yet. If there is any truth in this – and what do I know about how these things work? – that is all the more shocking. I really do struggle to imagine a situation in which Sykes has managed to shut out all knowledge of this case, has not been called upon during its course, and now lacks the motivation or the sense of obligation to get up to speed on it. And even if all this were somehow plausible, could he not even at least come up with the kind of blandishments offered by the current GSK CEO about having now put things right? The company has pleaded guilty, for goodness’ sake, it is not even as though he can refuse to comment on the question of guilt and culpability. So Murdoch knew nothing, Diamond knew nothing, now Sykes knew nothing. Is there actually anyone in charge of the world?