Wincott Lifetime Achievement Award 2019
Michael Robinson receives the Wincott Lifetime Achievement Award from Sir Richard Lambert, chair of The Wincott Foundation
At the annual awards lunch of The Wincott Foundation on 30 May, 2019, Sir Richard Lambert, chair, presented Michael Robinson with a Wincott Lifetime Achievement Award, and read the following citation.
"Michael has reported for BBC radio and television for over 40 years. He began in the late 1970s as a reporter on Radio 4's pioneering personal finance programme, Money Box, where he was mentored by Vincent Duggleby. Michael investigated a variety of suspect investment products, including those of Signal Life, which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. The company collapsed and the government launched an investigation into investment regulation.
In the 1980s, Michael began reporting for File on 4, Radio 4's weekly current affairs documentary series. His extensive coverage of the South African anti-apartheid uprisings won the Sony Radio Award for Best Current Affairs Programme.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Michael began reporting for BBC Television, principally for BBC2's business weekly, The Money Programme. Documentaries charting the era's political and economic challenges included an early examination of global warming, the economic prospects for post-apartheid South Africa and the fundamental economic transition taking place in Russia and Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
A highlight of this phase of his career was The Giant Awakes, a three-part analysis of the global consequences of China opening its borders to trade and investment. This series earned Michael the first of many Wincott awards, in 1994, as Business Broadcaster of the Year.
In the mid-1990s, his investigations for Panorama revealed the role of British-based traders in an attempt to rig the international copper market and the profits available to newly-privatised water companies from gaming the regulatory regime.
Following the bursting of the dot-com bubble, Michael explored the relationship between debt and asset prices - in particular, the extent to which excessive lending might be fuelling house prices. This investigation made the startling discovery that some banks and mortgage intermediaries were routinely advising customers to lie on mortgage application forms by exaggerating their incomes. A Money Programme special in 2003, Mortgage Madness, revealed the extent of this abuse, and a follow-up in 2004 showed how ineffective apparent reforms by the mortgage industry and regulators had been.
Michael's examination of banks and capital markets led to a succession of documentaries for File on 4, BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4 throwing light on the strategies used by UK and US banks to shift improper or excessive lending off their books. This had hidden from regulators how loaded with debt they really were in the run-up to the banking collapse. These programmes added to his Wincott tally.
In the wake of the financial crisis, Michael's investigations into questionable financial practices included an examination of international corporate tax avoidance, including the notorious 'double Irish Dutch sandwich'. Another programme uncovered the arcane corporate structure used by an outsourcing company to disguise the true size of the profits it had made from supplying offender tagging services to the government. Evidence from this programme featured in a Public Accounts Committee hearing. Another demonstrated how the Australian bank, Macquarie, had engineered the transfer of the £2bn debt raised to buy Thames Water from its balance sheet onto the utility's ratepayers.
Other recipients of the Wincott Lifetime Achievement Award are:
Sir Samuel Brittan (click here for details)
Sir Geoffrey Owen (click here for details)