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Goldman Sachs under fire for role in collapsed UK deal

Sir Philip Green attends the British Fashion Awards 2015 at London Coliseum on November 23, 2015 in London, England.
Mike Marsland | WireImage | Getty Images

Goldman Sachs, one of the world's biggest investment banks, gave credibility to a deal dubbed the "unacceptable face of capitalism" by U.K. lawmakers and "underplayed" their role in negotiations, according to a critical report by MPs.

Sir Philip Green, who sold retailer British Home Stores (BHS) to a one-time bankrupt, which then collapsed 14 months later, was the prime focus of the report's criticism. However, Goldman Sachs, which maintained in its evidence that it only provided free advice and "preliminary observations" to Green, "added lustre to an otherwise questionable process", according to a report by the U.K.'s Work and Pensions committee released Monday.

The collapse of BHS, once a staple of the U.K. high street, has left a £571 million ($750 million) pension deficit and led to the loss of over 10,000 jobs.

Michael Sherwood, a London-based vice chairman of the investment bank who appeared in front of the committee, had spoken with Green about a potential £40 million loan to support the deal.

Billionaire Green, who has a long-standing relationship with Goldmans over the management of his personal wealth, said in evidence to a committee of MPs investigating the collapse of BHS: "we one million percent would not have done business with" Dominic Chappell, who led a group which bought the business for 1 pound in March 2015, if Goldmans advisors had said not to.

The MPs concluded that Green "cannot pass responsibility" for the deal to the bank, as he failed to follow up concerns which Goldmans had raised. Frank Field, the chairman of the Work and Pensions committee, said in a statement: "One person, and one person alone is ultimately responsible for the BHS disaster."

Goldman Sachs said in a statement on Sunday: "As the report recognises, we identified risks to Arcadia but did not provide advice or recommendations and our informal work should not have been relied upon in any decision to proceed with the transaction."