Charlotte Street Partners



Grand scam

Good morning,

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by Kevin Pringle, senior partner

22 February 2022 

Can you be certain Charlie Clegg exists? Might this briefing’s claimed author be one of several synonyms for a single writer or one synonym for several writers? Please trust that I’m neither; though if I didn’t exist, I’d have an hour longer in bed. Trust, though, seems a perishing commodity. Stories of its abuse are the cultural phenomenon of the moment. Take the abused trust of the supposed employees of Madbrid: a creative design agency with a fake history, fake leaders, fake clients, and no salaries to pay. The con perpetrated by Madbrid’s founder, Ali Ayad, is the subject of Jobfished, a documentary broadcast on BBC3 last night. Earlier his month, Netflix released The Tinder Swindler: a documentary on how Shimon Hayut used the titular dating app and fantasy stories to con women. Soon after, the platform released Inventing Anna: a dramatic depiction of real high-society con artist Anna Sorokin. This is the latest example of how a genre can speak to an era’s concerns. In the 1970s, a time of successive crises, people watched ships capsize, infernos tower, and Van Heflin put a bomb on a plane. The movies, like the news, showed disaster; but the movies, unlike the news, suggested some light at the end of the tunnel. Con stories too are strangely comforting. True crime was already popular when Covid struck. But now, two years later, we’re in the age of the con. The pandemic has a lot to do with it. Lockdowns slashed personal contact. All of a sudden, we all had to trust digital interactions far more than ever before. Naturally, scammers took advantage. The number of texts apparently but not actually from the NHS, HMRC, Hermes exploded. The rise of online misinformation shows that when the internet became our chief source of information, it became both easier to check a statement’s veracity and easier to lie. During the pandemic, the internet became not only the chief source of information for many, it became their world. We might all have felt like we were in Plato’s cave, seeing shadows of the real world. Sorokin and Hayut and Ayad are far more sophisticated than For those of us, however, who have encountered a scam or who have grown wary of a world online, these stories say we’re not alone and we’re not totally wrong. It’s a strange, vindicating comfort for a world grown distrustful.


Boris Johnson is this morning holding a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. The committee is expected to approve sanctions against those in Russia most likely to benefit from Russian incursion in Ukraine. The Cobra meeting comes as Russia yesterday recognised the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. President Putin has also ordered Russian troops into separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine for “peacekeeping” purposes. Around 190,000 Russian troops as well as 30,000 separatists are estimated to be positioned near Ukraine’s borders and in separatist regions. The legal requirement for those testing positive for Covid in England to isolate is being removed while the availability of free testing is to be scaled back. The moves were announced yesterday by Boris Johnson. They effectively end Covid-specific legislation in England. Nicola Sturgeon will today update the Scottish parliament on Covid restrictions. She is likely to set out plans for living with Covid longer-term. The first minister is not, however, expected to announce the scrapping of isolation: a move she and SNP colleagues have recently criticised.

Business and economy

Former US president Donald Trump has launched a social media app called Truth. The app’s launch has been plagued with difficulties and its logo faces the threat of legal action by UK company TRAILAR. Edinburgh-based aviation services company John Menzies has accepted a £550m takeover bid by Kuwaiti rival National Aviation Services. The company was hit by the downturn in flights during the pandemic. Shell has blamed speculation by hedge-funds for the recent volatility of the oil market. Steve Hill, Shell’s executive vice-president for energy marketing, claimed that supply and demand still drove oil prices but that volatility was no longer as related to factors such as news about oil. (£)

Columns of note

Almost as soon as the Metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg’s new virtual reality platform, launched, a problem with simulated sexual abuse became apparent. In The Times, Hugo Rifkind claims that, if this is the new internet, the horrors of the old internet should have prepared us for it. Among tech giants, Rifkind sees little will or ability to tackle such problems. (£) Amid rising costs and the Ukrainian crisis, Poland appears to be seeking détente with the EU in a row over the independence of the former’s judiciary. EU officials, however, remain sceptical. Are Poland and the EU’s relations irreparable? In the Financial Times, Sam Fleming and James Shotter trace the history of this conflict and question what its outcome will be. (£)

Cartoon source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

In the US stocks and bonds markets were closed for a public holiday. In Europe, however, rising tensions in Ukraine saw the Stoxx 600 index drop 1.3% while London’s FTSE100 closed down 0.4%. The pound was trading at 1.20 euros and 1.36 dollars.

What’s happening today?

AGMAberdeen Di&gImage Scan Holdings   Annual reportHSBC Holdings HSBA Final resultsHSBC HoldingsInterContinental HotelsSmith & Nephew       Synectics        Coca-Cola HBCAntofagasta   Thungela ResBank Of Georgia Group         

International economic announcements(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)(15:00) Consumer Confidence (US)(09:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER) UK economic announcements(07:00) Claimant Count Rate(07:00) Public Sector Net Borrowing(07:00) Unemployment Rate

did you know

During the Second World War, Spanish civil servant Juan Pujol García deceived the Germans by creating a fictitious network of 27 contacts in Britain, despite never having visited the country. 

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons 

Oral questionsDepartment for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy LegislationCharities Bill [Lords]: Remaining stagesPublic Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill [Lords]: Remaining stages

House of Lords 

Oral questionsVarious DebatesVarious Orders and regulationsHealth Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 LegislationNational Insurance Contributions Bill – third readingFinance (No.2) Bill – second reading and remaining stages

Scottish parliament 

Topical questions (if selected) First Minister StatementCOVID-19 Update Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee debateInquiry into the use of the made affirmative procedure during the Coronavirus pandemic Scottish government debateNationality and Borders Bill (UK Legislation)

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