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5 Things that mattered 20/8/18

A round-up of the most important issues affecting finance directors, including the continued fall-out from the audit of BHS, pensions and economics.

PwC lashed over BHS collapse

Accountancy watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) launches a damning indictment against accounting firm PwC over its handling of BHS after its £1 sale by Philip Green to the serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell.

The FRC says that failures by the big four auditor meant there were “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading” statements regarding the financial longevity of BHS after it was sold off by Green.

The transfer of ownership to Chappell precipitated the store’s public downfall a year later, with a £571m hole cropping up in its pension fund, while 11,000 jobs were lost. Green later pummelled £363m into the BHS pension scheme following legal action by the pensions regulator, which ended as a result of the settlement.

FTSE-350 pension deficits shrink

A report by consultants Barnett Waddingham confirms pension deficits at the UK’s 350 largest listed companies fell by £27bn over the 18 months to June on an accounting basis.

As of 30 June, the combined defined benefit (DB) shortfall was £35bn, compared to £62bn as of January 2017. The upturn was thanks to a mixture of strong investment performance and increased deficit recovery contributions (DRCs), the consultancy said.

The reduced funding hole now, on average, represents just 17% of company’s pre-tax profits compared to 70% at the start of 2017. This is the lowest level since 2011.

FCA record investigations

According to the Financial Conduct Authority’s own statistics, it has a record 504 investigations open as of 1 April, compared with 410 a year previously.

Just two years ago, the number hovered at around 100 cases. The bumper caseload includes 86 looking into suspected financial crime. There are another 75 on insider dealing, which the FCA has the power to criminally prosecute.

Workplace pension prosecution

An accountant admits lying about employees having a workplace pension, in the first prosecution of its kind.

Hashmukh Shah misled The Pensions Regulator (TPR) by saying staff at Gran Caffe Londra, opposite Harrods, had a pension scheme to avoid an inspection.

Since 2013 employers have been obliged to set up a scheme for eligible staff.

UK productivity slips back

Britain’s manufacturing industry falls to ninth in the world behind France, reversing a recovery in its performance since the financial crash.

The UK’s total manufacturing output stayed ahead of Brazil and Indonesia but slipped below France and remained well adrift of Germany in fourth position and Italy in seventh at the end of 2016.

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