James Shaw’s ex boss: “justifiable public interest” to probe your MSc degree

September 19, 2023 (first published; republished 23 Sept after hack attempt)

By Ian Wishart

The man who gave Greens co-leader James Shaw his biggest career break has just delivered Shaw one of his biggest slapdowns: “I believe it should be a matter of justifiable public interest to know whether the qualifications which office-holders state they hold, do in fact exist.”

For nearly two weeks the Climate Change minister Shaw has steadfastly resisted requests for a privacy waiver so the circumstances of his MSc degree from the UK’s Bath University can be fact-checked – but one of Shaw’s biggest supporters has delivered a crushing blow to his former protege, saying it’s time to front up.

Jermyn Brooks was a managing global partner of accounting and auditing giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) who hired a then 24 year old Shaw on secondment from international NGO AIESEC to help PWC work on sustainability issues in the late 1990s.

AIESEC, which Shaw’s LinkedIn page says he is still an office-holder in, is still clinging to the false belief that Shaw graduated with a BA degree from Victoria University:

Brooks, now an advisory board chair with anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, says “James Shaw joined three other students who were senior members of AIESEC to provide outsider and young person input to finding out how PW was being viewed by their contemporaries and other less traditional sources.”

He described their work as “valuable” to PWC but doesn’t recall checking the degree status of the AIESEC recruits.

“I was never aware what degree James Shaw had actually been awarded,” he says, as “this was not key to the limited assignment which he and other AIESEC colleagues were working on.”

However, a 1999 report in Fast Company magazine says Shaw was able to leverage the temporary secondment into a permanent job at PWC.

A search of the UK PWC website in the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine) reveals fulltime staff were expected to hold degrees, and not just any old BA: honours were expected.

However, efforts to find out how Shaw landed the rare privilege of a fulltime job at a Big-4 accounting firm without a degree of any kind were fruitless, the media team at global auditing powerhouse PWC says it doesn’t have the records.

For James Shaw and the New Zealand media, it’s been four weeks of social media hell since the story first broke that Shaw’s financial interest declarations to parliament were inaccurate and that his statement to parliament about co-founding UK consulting firm Future Considerations Ltd may have been misleading, as the company was founded in 2002, Shaw didn’t start working there until 2005 and he didn’t become a shareholder until 2007.

The New Zealand media, all over other candidate claims like a rash, studiously looked the other way as the Shaw scandal burned up social media. Then, three weeks ago, came the revelation that Shaw’s LinkedIn page carried a false statement that he had a BA from Victoria University when in fact he had dropped out and never finished it.

It was revealed that some journalists had been fooled into believing he had that degree:

Five more days of media silence ended when The Platform’s Sean Plunket gained an admission from Shaw’s office that he had never earned that degree, and Newshub’s Jenna Lynch then confronted Shaw, who admitted the LinkedIn page was wrong but adding “I have always been very open about my academic record”.

Armed with that commitment to openness and transparency, I asked Shaw 12 days ago to provide a privacy waiver so Bath University could release his entry application for the MSc degree course and other documents necessary to fact-check how he obtained the Masters without a Bachelor’s.

Shaw stayed silent. His enablers in the mainstream media stayed silent.

But today, commonsense from Shaw’s former boss at PWC, now at Transparency International, prevailed. Yes, given the false claims already in the public domain, there is now a “justifiable public interest” in releasing details of how the leader of the Greens, a potential Deputy Prime Minister, got his MSc:

It’s time for James Shaw to front, and the media to finally explain to the public why they have been participating in the coverup.