Bell Pottinger update

The CIPR can confirm that a complaint, made by the Democratic Alliance (DA) about the conduct of a member working for Bell Pottinger, has been discontinued by the complainant.

The complaint was made in the light of allegations that Bell Pottinger employees working in South Africa, in the course of a contract with Oakbay, a company owned by the Gupta family and linked to President Jacob Zuma, had acted unethically. Bell Pottinger issued an apology, and commissioned a report by Herbert Smith Freehills which highlighted “potentially racially divisive and/or potentially offensive” material and unethical actions by employees of the firm.

The CIPR condemns without reservation the use of any such unethical, racially divisive or offensive tactics.

The CIPR had been in contact with the DA since early July, when they made an initial enquiry about making a complaint. As a company, Bell Pottinger are not and have never been a member of the CIPR. The Democratic Alliance was provided with a list of the names of all CIPR members who work for the firm and a complaint was then taken forward against one member on 25 August. On 19 September, the DA’s representative informed the CIPR’s Solicitor that the complaint would no longer be pursued.

The DA’s representative expressed their gratitude for the assistance offered by the CIPR and the professionalism demonstrated in handling the complaint.

Under CIPR regulations, complaints are treated with the strictest confidentiality and we would like to thank the DA and its representatives for observing this rule, which allows for complaints to be pursued fairly and rigorously. We owe a duty of care to our members, each of whom is accountable to our code of conduct, to keep any complaint about an individual member confidential until the Professional Standards Panel makes a clear ruling or a complaint is otherwise brought to an end.

The DA's decision brings our disciplinary process to a close.

The CIPR welcomes the Herbert Smith Freehills report, Bell Pottinger’s apology and the PRCA’s ruling on Bell Pottinger’s membership of that organisation. The different branches of the public relations profession now need to work together to focus on the positive contribution that PR makes to the economy and repair the damage that has been done to its reputation.

Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).