Three former members of AssetCo management excluded from the accountancy profession
07 August 2018
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) today announced exclusions from the accountancy profession for three former executives of AssetCo plc, after a Disciplinary Tribunal found they had committed Misconduct in relation to the preparation and approval of the company’s financial statements for the financial years ended 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2010.
John Shannon (former Chief Executive Officer) has been excluded for 16 years, Raymond “Frank” Flynn (former Chief Financial Officer) for 14 years and Matthew Boyle (former Financial Controller) for 12 years. Additionally, fines of £250,000, £150,000 and £100,000 respectively have been imposed.
AssetCo was an AIM-listed fire and rescue services business that provided fire engines to the London Fire Brigade. As a result of the Misconduct, AssetCo substantially restated its financial statements in 2011 (£146m reduction in assets, £25m reduction in profit) and significant loss was caused by the collapse in share price from 60p to 1.75p.
The dishonest conduct of management was concealed. The FRC opened its investigation in late 2014.
The FRC’s Executive Counsel brought a total of 27 allegations of Misconduct against Mr Shannon, Mr Flynn and Mr Boyle before the tribunal. The tribunal, chaired by Sir Bernard Eder, made findings of misconduct in relation to all of them. These included findings of dishonesty and failing to act in accordance with core standards of integrity, objectivity and competence, which related to dealing with company funds, the preparation of financial statements, and the recognition of fictitious assets and revenue. The tribunal also found that they had each misled the auditors, Grant Thornton UK LLP.
Claudia Mortimore, interim Executive Counsel at the FRC, said,
FRC AssetCo Report
Notes to editors:
“The misconduct of the three accountants in this case is the most serious the FRC has put before a Tribunal. In addition to the financial harm caused to the company and to many investors, the actions of these individuals have damaged public confidence in the profession. The Tribunal has recognised this and it is reflected in the imposition of lengthy periods of exclusion (being the longest ordered to date), as well as substantial financial penalties. These sanctions should send a clear message that the manipulation of financial statements, and in particular dishonesty, will be dealt with robustly”.
- In April 2017 Grant Thornton UK LLP and Robert Napper, a retired partner at the firm, were sanctioned after admitting Misconduct in relation to the audits of the financial statements of AssetCo plc for the same periods.
- The FRC’s mission is to promote transparency and integrity in business. The FRC sets the UK Corporate Governance and Stewardship Codes and UK standards for accounting and actuarial work; monitors and takes action to promote the quality of corporate reporting; and operates independent enforcement arrangements for accountants and actuaries. As the competent authority for audit in the UK the FRC sets auditing and ethical standards and monitors and enforces audit quality.
- The FRC is the independent, investigative and disciplinary body for accountants and actuaries in the UK dealing with cases which raise important issues affecting the public interest. In brief, the stages of the disciplinary process under the Accountancy Scheme are:
- Decision to investigate
- Decision whether to bring enforcement proceedings against Member Firm or Member and, if so decided, referral to Disciplinary Tribunal
- Tribunal hearing
- Determination and imposition of sanction and/or costs orders
Under the Accountancy Scheme the FRC can start a disciplinary investigation in one of two ways: (i) the professional bodies can refer cases to the FRC; and (ii) the FRC may decide of its own accord to investigate a matter. The Conduct Committee will consider each case identified or referred to it and decide whether or not the criteria for an investigation are met.
The criteria are specified in paragraph 5(1) of the Accountancy Scheme. A Member or Member Firm shall be liable to investigation under this Scheme only where, in the opinion of the Conduct Committee the matter raises or appears to raise important issues affecting the public interest in the United Kingdom and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that there may have been Misconduct or it appears that the Member or Member Firm has failed to comply with any of his or its obligations under paragraphs 14(1) or 14(2) of the Scheme.
Investigations are conducted by Executive Counsel and the Enforcement division.
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