Three former executives at collapsed construction firm Carillion each face six-figure fines for market abuse for “recklessly” making misleadingly positive and inaccurate statements about the company’s financial health despite knowing it was in trouble.
The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on Thursday announced its decision to fine former Chief Executive Richard Howson 397,800 pounds (U.S. $483,000) and former finance directors Richard Adam and Zafar Khan £318,000 (U.S. $386,000) and £154,400 (U.S. $187,000), respectively.
The decision notices are provisional, as all three former directors have referred their cases to the Upper Tribunal, which handles appeals for sanctions issued by the FCA and other financial regulators. There is no deadline or timeframe for when a final decision might be reached.
The FCA said it would have also fined Carillion £37,910,000 (U.S. $46 million) if it had not already gone bust.
The FCA said Howson, Adam, and Khan “were each aware of the deteriorating expected financial performance within Carillion’s U.K. construction business and the increasing financial risks associated with it.”
It added the trio “failed to ensure that those Carillion announcements for which they were responsible accurately and fully reflected these matters” and that “[d]espite their awareness of these deteriorations and increasing risks, they also failed to make the board and the audit committee aware of them, resulting in a lack of proper oversight.”
The regulator said Carillion “recklessly” published announcements in December 2016, March 2017, and May 2017 that were “misleading and did not accurately or fully disclose” the company’s true financial performance or exposure to risks.
In January 2018, Carillion collapsed with £7 billion (U.S. $8.5 billion) in debts, becoming one of Britain’s biggest corporate governance failures.
“Carillion failed to take reasonable steps to establish and maintain adequate procedures, systems, and controls to enable it to comply with its obligations under the listing rules,” stated Mark Steward, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight. “As a result, its true financial position remained hidden over many months and the effects of its collapse were aggravated, causing substantial harm to shareholders and creditors.”
Given the furor over the collapse of Carillion; the cost to the U.K. taxpayer; the time taken to impose sanctions; and the subsequent impact on corporate governance and auditing, both of which have undergone significant reviews and apparent reform in the country, the fines are relatively low.
On Monday, KPMG was fined £14.4 million pounds (then-U.S. $17.4 million) and severely reprimanded for providing false and misleading information relating to its audits of Carillion and software business Regenersis.
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