Accountants Deloitte were today punished with a record £14 million fine for failing to manage conflicts of interest over their advice to collapsed car maker MG Rover.
The Financial Reporting Council also severely reprimanded the firm for its conduct over MG Rover, which crashed into administration in 2005 with debts of £1.4 billion and 6,000 job losses. Its damning report said: “These are all very serious matters. The public must be protected from misconduct of this nature.”
Four MG Rover directors — the “Phoenix Four” — set up the Phoenix company to buy the loss-making British carmaker for a token £10 five years earlier. But Deloitte and its partner and corporate finance expert Maghsoud Einollahi — personally fined £250,000 and banned from the profession for three years — both failed to properly manage conflicts of interest, the FRC said. Einollahi has now retired and Deloitte has committed to pay his fine.
Deloitte and Einollahi had acted as corporate finance advisers to firms involved with MG Rover and the Phoenix Four while Deloitte was also auditing MG Rover. The accountancy firm, one of the industry’s Big Four, was also accused of presenting itself as advising MG Rover when in fact it was advising the Phoenix Four.
The report added that Deloitte had showed no signs of “co-operation, confession and contrition.” The FRC’s executive director for conduct, Paul George, said its verdict should be “essential reading for all members of the profession”. The FRC had originally wanted to fine Deloitte between £15 million and £20 million while Deloitte was pushing for a £1 million penalty.
Today’s fine dwarves the previous highest penalty from the FRC, when PwC was hit with a £1.4 million punishment for failing to pick up the fact that JP Morgan had not been keeping client money separate from its own.
Deloitte has 28 days to appeal. A spokesperson said the ruling could have “negative implications” for the advice accountants can offer clients and added: “We remain disappointed with the outcome of the tribunal and disagree with its main conclusions. As a firm we take our public interest obligations seriously.”