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Fifth audit committee role for Ann Godbehere

Ann Godbehere

FTSE-100 mining group Rio Tinto has scored a coup in
securing financial services heavyweight Ann Godbehere as a non-executive
director and a member of its audit committee. She succeeds former Bank of
England deputy governor David Clementi, who was a non-executive.

Godbehere joins the boards of Rio Tinto plc and Rio Tinto Limited and, it
seems, will be the principal person on the committee with long-standing, deep
experience and understanding of financial regulatory and auditing issues. She
joins, among other existing audit committee non-executive directors, Vivenne
Cox, who was chief executive for BP’s Alternative Energy business until June
2009; Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who has been deputy chairman at Shell plc since
2005 and has served as principal private secretary to two Chancellors of the
Exchequer; and Paul Tellier, CEO at Bombardier between 2003 and 2004.

Five star
Very much of the portfolio non-executive and audit committee member mold,
Godbehere’s dual role at Rio Tinto marks her fifth position on an audit
committee. She is currently also chair of the audit committees at Atrium
Underwriting Group, Aerial Group and Prudential and a member of the audit
committee at UBS. The certified accountant is also a non-executive director at
all of those businesses.

The British-Canadian is best known for the year she spent as interim chief
financial officer at Northern Rock after its collapse and nationalisation, where
she was headhunted by the UK government to lead the restructuring of the
business in 2008. The Rock did not replace her directly.

Before that, Godbehere spent more than 25 years in the financial services
industry between Canada and Europe and five years as CFO for reinsurer Swiss Re.

Godbehere stepped down from the board at Northern Rock on 31 January last
year and left the company at the end of February, having reportedly earned
£900,000 at the nationalised bank (£170,000 of that, it was also reported,
covered her travel expenses commuting to London from her home in Switzerland).
There had been some controversy over her personal tax arrangements as she
remained a non-dom for the duration of her work for the business.

“The Rock is a bank that needs oversight writ large. That’s probably why
Godbehere has been brought in,” Accountancy Age reporter David Jetuah
said of her appointment in 2008. “Someone who will tell it like it is and
challenge every assumption. Every assumption.”

Colour has been given to her otherwise staunchly serious professional profile
as a reinsurance expert by the claim that she collects Toby jugs and keeps at
least ten cats. But no one challenged her appointment as the right person for
the job and it seems that she will remain a fixture among the cream of UK
business for some time.

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