BOV chief sees no conflict of interest in writing editorials for The Times

Bank of Valletta Chairman John Cassar White says he does not see a conflict of interest in writing editorials for The Times, says he always steered away from commenting on controversial political issues

Bank of Valletta chairman John Cassar White has told MaltaToday that he sees no conflict of interest in writing editorials for The Times.

It is unclear whether he declared his contributions to the board, considering his very sensitive role.

He was asked by MaltaToday to explain how he could reconcile the two roles and whether he considered this to be a serious conflict of interest. 

Cassar White, who was appointed chairman of the Bank of Valletta, where the government has a majority shareholding, by Finance minister Edward Scicluna, told MaltaToday: “As an experienced journalist and purely as an academic consideration you know that it is editors who assume responsibility for what is written in editorials that are published in their newspapers.” 

He did not divulge how much he has been paid for these editorials or whether it was he who determined what subject to deal with in the editorials he wrote, of whether he followed instructions from the editor to script a leader for newspaper.

He told MaltaToday: “I have been a regular contributor to The Times on business issues for at least the last ten years. In my contributions I have always steered away from commenting on controversial political issues. As such I do not believe that I have a conflict of interest when commenting on business issues.”

But Cassar White did not elaborate which business issues he had treated for leading editorials, which often are scripted to influence government policy and the business community.

The Times and other newspapers use editorial contributors and at times the differences in style and editorial bias is stunning, and more often than not also contradictory.

“If and when the parties involved in this issue see a potential conflict of interest in what I do, I will give full consideration to their concerns. I have not relied just on my own judgment on this, but sought independent advice from different professional sources that have confirmed my thinking,” Cassar White explained.

“Moreover, as a director of the bank I have responsibilities at law to all the shareholders of the bank and not just to the shareholders who nominated me, that is, the government of Malta.”

He insisted that he takes this responsibility very seriously.

At present The Times’ former managing director, Adrian Hillman, who was appointed three months before the 2013 election, is facing internal investigations at the Allied Group over unsubstantiated allegations that the newspaper’s editorial policy was influenced by “Labour party interests”. Hillman has stepped down from the position.

This latest revelation, that the chairman of a publicly owned bank with a government majority shareholding was writing editorials in The Times, may complicate matters even further.

In an attempt to shoot down any notion of conflict of interest Cassar White said:  “Moreover the bank’s Related Party Transactions policy introduced last year prevents me as a director nominated by the government from participating in any decision or discussion in which the government may have an interest. I have fully adhered to this policy and will continue to do so.”

He did not explain that on many occasions The Times had taken editorial stances which could have raised conflicts with the bank and the shareholder.

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