The award BAE’s Olver wouldn’t accept

Symon eviction video still

A shareholder activist is evicted from the AGM

What do you get for leading an arms company facing billion-dollar corruption investigations?

Well, BAE’s outgoing Chairman, Dick Olver, has been given a knighthood for his “services to business.”

CAAT had already recognised Olver’s ‘achievements’ at the company’s recent AGM, presenting him with our own prestigious “Whitewash Award.”

Sadly, he was too shy to let us finish our heartfelt tribute – but you can read the full speech below, and watch a video of the award ceremony (with other highlights from Olver’s last ever AGM).

The full speech

Mr Olver,

Many of us here today wanted to mark the occasion of your last Annual General Meeting as BAE Systems’ Chairman. Your tenure has been really quite remarkable.

We have been consistently astounded by your efforts, against all the odds, to present BAE as an ethical company and would like to take the opportunity to present you with this award:

The prestigious Whitewash Award, sponsored by Saint Jude, for your efforts over the past nine years.

Whitewashing a company which manufactures killing machines would be a challenge for anyone, but, unbelievably, you’ve tried!

You’re a man who has spoken about principled business conduct while telling us you’re happy about supplying weapons to the oppressive regime in Saudi Arabia – a country more authoritarian than Burma or Iran, which denies women and migrant workers their basic rights and executes prisoners without fair trial.

You’ve brushed off concerns about lives lost in Yemen in attacks from weapons your company supplied to Saudi Arabia

You’ve seen BAE’s armoured vehicles enter Bahrain and support the brutal repression of protest there …

In the face of all this you’ve looked us in the eye and told us you’re proud of this record.

That’s really quite something.

We have noted your valiant attempts in trying to ‘draw a line under the past’ and consign the company’s mistakes to history – but we can’t say goodbye without remembering the $400 million dollar criminal fine covering corruption in BAE’s weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic and Hungary – that’s certainly one for the record books.

The £30 million fine paid to the people of Tanzania after BAE’s dodgy sale of an unfit and overpriced air traffic control system must be mentioned too- if only for the sheer brazen nerve of the company trying to present its criminal fine as a charitable donation. What a piece of spin that was!

Dismissing history was a very smart move.

After all, history is very inconvenient when it is half a million people in Indonesia and East Timor dying under the Suharto regime – supported by BAE’s weapons sales. It is awkward to acknowledge the countries still paying off the debts incurred by such purchases.

It is awkward to acknowledge those who suffered in Mubarak’s Egypt while BAE supported the dictator with parts for armoured vehicles and aircraft.

Or the South Africans who were told that the country couldn’t afford antiretroviral drugs to combat the AIDS pandemic while it spent billions of pounds on BAE aircraft which it didn’t need.

If only you could dismiss the present too!

Under your ethical stewardship, BAE has profited from supplying all sides in Libya. When MBDA missiles sold to Gaddafi are then attacked with missiles supplied to UK and France you must have been so pleased with how “principled business conduct delivers hard results to the bottom line.”

Under your leadership, you’ve told us BAE has become “a company where doing the right thing becomes an almost subconscious response “

Truly, that’s an amazing thing to be able to say!

We’re amazed you say it as we see BAE seek deals with the new Libyan regime

We’re amazed you say it as BAE desperately pursues sales with the UAE despite its worsening human rights record

We’re amazed you say it as BAE continues to support repression in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere around the world.

We’re amazed you say it as BAE expands its work in cyber-surveillance – in places like Bahrain where such equipment is used in the interrogation of human rights activists

We’re amazed you say it as BAE continues working on drones – weapons which kill the innocent, spread fear and create more terror

We’re amazed you say it as BAE seeks to profit from new nuclear weapons for the UK. Weapons which threaten to swallow up public money at a time when the NHS is being cut, vital services are closing their doors, and the poor and disadvantaged find it harder and harder to make ends meet

Truly we marvel at BAE’s commitment to responsible business behaviour – that’s why there could be no other recipient for this very special award.

Please! A round of applause for Mr Olver and his implausible exploits!


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