The chief executive of Kraft twice declined invitations to answer questions on its Cadbury takeover, a new report by the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee has revealed. The report also expresses concern over Cadbury marketing functions that have been transferred out of the UK.
Irene Rosenfeld's refusal to discuss the £11.5bn deal - in both early 2010 and in a recent select commitee review of the takeover - verged on a show of contempt for the House of Commons, MP have said.
The report read: "Irene Rosenfeld, the chief executive officer and chairman of Kraft, refused to give evidence despite repeated requests from us that she should appear. Neither that refusal to attend, nor the manner of it, reflected well on Kraft, nor did Kraft's persistence in failing to acknowledge the seriousenss of the Takeover Panel criticism - criticism which, by its gravity, would alone have merited Ms Rosenfeld's appearance before us, as a committee of public scrutiny."
It continued: "That sorry episode overshadowed what could have been a positive discussion on the future of Cadbury under Kraft's ownership. In its correspondence with the committee, Kraft in our view steered close to a contempt of the House. We trust that that will not be repeated."
The report by the Takeover Panel comes after Kraft's backtrack on a pre-deal suggestion that it would keep open the Cadbury plant in Somerdale. The plant closure just a week after the takeover prompted calls on Rosenfeld to act as witness to the committee, to which she refused.
In February, Kraft's executive vice president Marc Firestone wrote to MPs: "Given our understanding that the committee's purpose is to inquire into relevant facts, the repeated demands for Ms Rosen to appear in person are regrettable. Based on the experience of last year's hearing and recent comments by some committee members, there seems to be a desire to have a 'star witness' towards whom ill-founded allegations and insults can be made, with little or no attempt to discuss the facts and look rationally into the evidence. Indeed, a review of the transcript from last year's hearing shows that it went far beyond spirited debated to a remarkable level of rancour."
MPs responded, calling the manner and tone of the letter "unacceptable" and a "total misrepresentation" which showed "a distinct lack of judgement by Mr Firestone".
The committee defended its requests of Rosenfeld, saying "The description of the commitee's 'motive' for inviting [her] in our view fell short of an explicit contempt of the House, but not by much (...) [Her] repeated refusal to appear before a committee of Parliament demonstrates a regrettably dismissive attitude to a national parliament - an attitude which we trust Kraft will rapidly take action to shed."