Anna Isaac

The Guardian

Anna Isaac produced some of the biggest scoops - and probably the most impactful and shocking investigation - of the year. From sexual misconduct allegations at the UK’s foremost business institution, to tax penalties negotiated by the chancellor, Isaac’s revelations changed the landscape of business lobbying and cost the Conservative chairman his job. Isaac’s CBI investigation revealed multiple allegations, including rape and sexual harassment, exposing what the CBI eventually admitted were deep failings that led to “terrible consequences” and a toxic culture. Resignations and suspensions followed and the CBI admitted it had lost the trust of members and staff, and that it needed fundamental reforms. The painstaking investigation had a huge impact in Britain and internationally. It sparked debate about the treatment of women in business, including sexist and misogynistic behaviour. No other media outlet had ever revealed such allegations about the CBI, which enjoyed regular access to the PM and cabinet, helping shape policy and appearing frequently in the media. 

An anonymous tip-off led to weeks of research, interviews and corroboration as dozens of people came forward. City of London Police launched an investigation, CBI director-general Tony Danker was dismissed, and John Allan stepped down as chairman of Tesco and Barratt Homes. Anna puts facts, compassion and rigour at the heart of her work, winning the trust of women who shared accounts of rape, harassment and bullying. She painstakingly pieced together timelines of the actions of alleged perpetrators, the basis for claims of a toxic culture. Her reporting resulted in swift change: some of Britain’s largest corporations left the CBI, and the government and Labour cut ties with it; the organisation was forced to overhaul its culture and management. Leading industry figures described the investigation as a wake-up call for business, with City financier Dame Helena Morrissey saying: “We can’t have young women look and think: ‘I’m not going to join industry, I’m not going to go into the business world’ because it’s a terrible culture and terrible things can happen.” Isaac also overcame months of legal threats as she pursued an investigation into the taxes of former chancellor and Conservative chairman Nadhim Zahawi. She revealed he was being investigated for tax irregularities and had paid a penalty to HMRC as part of a £5m tax bill. 

Only after Isaac’s story did Zahawi admit he had not paid the correct tax. Moreover, while Number 10 claimed it had been unaware of details of Zahawi’s tax affairs, Anna revealed that Rishi Sunak was informally made aware of a reputational risk posed by Zahawi’s finances before deciding to appoint him to his cabinet. Zahawi was sacked soon after. Anna also investigated the finances of one of Britain's richest men, JCB heir Lord Anthony Bamford, his links to the Conservative party and Boris Johnson. Anna revealed that HMRC is investigating the Bamford family's tax affairs, which could result in a £500m bill, raising questions about Tory funding sources and whether they will have to repay millions of pounds of donations & gifts.