The former cabinet minister Gavin Williamson has taken a job at firm launching a payment card “built for the influencer lifestyle”, which was previously hit with a consumer warning by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and currently only offers its product in Brazil.
Williamson has gained permission to join the advisory board of Lanistar, whose website says it wants to roll out its payment card and crypto services to the UK and EU.
The former minister, who served in the Cabinet Office and as education secretary, who will be paid in shares, told the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) that he would help the firm with “providing guidance, connections (with financial institutions) and leadership to Lanistar”.
But Acoba warned Williamson about the risks of using any connections he obtained during his role in government.
Contact the team securely: create a Protonmail account and email us at [email protected]; or use Signal Messenger or WhatsApp to message +44 7824 537227.“In the description of your role, you said that you would provide connections to Lanistar. You also made clear you would have no contact or dealings with government … There is a risk your connections could be used to unfairly access and influence the government and its arm’s length bodies. Making use of contacts within government even indirectly would be a breach of the rules which impose a lobbying ban on all ministers for two years on leaving office,” it said.
Lanistar’s business model involves appealing to influencers with followers of more than 50,000 to help promote its product in return for the promise of shares in the company when its card is launched. Its website says it has more than 3,000 influencers in 100 countries on board.
Footballer and former Lanistar-endorser Kevin De Bruyne. Photograph: Neal Simpson/Getty Images/AllstarCelebrities from Love Island Amber Gill and Tommy Fury, and Premier League footballer Kevin De Bruyne were among those that endorsed the company several years ago in a viral advertising campaign.
The financial technology firm was set up in the UK in 2019 and later that year was issued with a consumer warning by the FCA. The regulator subsequently withdrew the warning after the firm agreed to add an “appropriate disclaimer to its marketing materials updating its regulatory status to confirm that it is not conducting regulated activities”. It was later registered as an “e-money agent” for a regulated firm in 2021, before being deregistered in August of this year.
The company was also told by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2021 that its advert claiming to offer “the world’s most secure payment card” was misleading.
Lanistar’s founder, Gurhan Kiziloz, has said in interviews that he wants it to be a fintech unicorn worth more than £1bn. Its payment card and crypto app are operational in Brazil where it has a partnership with a bank and Mastercard.
The job is Williamson’s third role on top of his work as an MP and a position at RTC Education, a university provider owned by a Conservative donor, Selva Pankaj. RTC Education pays Williamson £50,000 a year, as well as giving him a one-off bonus of £25,000 this autumn.
Williamson and Lanistar have been approached for comment.