Clowes accountants barred

BY ROGER TRAPP

Three accountants have been barred from the Institute of Chartered Accountants, another has been suspended for a year and several others ordered to pay costs totalling nearly £100,000 for their roles in Barlow Clowes, the investment company that collapsed in 1988 owing investors millions of pounds.

The punishments resulting from the inquiry by the profession's Joint Disciplinary Scheme, which investigates serious allegations of misconduct, are the most severe yet handed out at one time.

These are the latest in a chain of events stretching back to May 1988, when the fund management group controlled by Peter Clowes collapsed. The Government paid £150m in compensation to 18,000 investors. In February 1992 Clowes was jailed for 10 years for theft and fraud. The Treasury and Cork Gully, liquidators of Barlow Clowes, have also issued a writ against Spicer & Oppenheim (now part of Touche Ross), the company's auditors.

The JDS began its inquiry in 1989 following a Department of Trade and Industry investigation.Proceeedings were later suspended until the conclusion of the criminal trial.

The most severe penalty was imposed on Julian Pilkington, who was engagement partner for a variety of services provided by Spicer & Oppenheim to two parts of the Barlow Clowes group - the UK Partnership and Barlow Clowes & Partners.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Grantchester QC, found that Mr Pilkington's "professional efficiency and competence" were so far below the standardexpected of the partner responsible for audit work "as to bring the profession intoserious disrepute". It ordered that he lose his ICA membership and pay costs of £100,000.

Mr Pilkington, who left the firm in November 1990, now works as a consultant carrying out non-audit work. He said in a statement last night that the JDS procedures in this instancewere flawed in "both form and execution". However, because of the length of time he and his family had had to live with the matter, he would not appeal.

Others to lose their institute membership are David Mitchell, who at the time was resident in Geneva and had "substantial involvement" with the Swiss arm of the group, and Christopher Newman, who was finance director of Barlow Clowes & Partners, and James Ferguson Holdings, which acquired part of the Barlow Clowes organisation in 1987.Mr Mitchell, who refused to attend the JDS hearings, was ordered to pay costs of £87,000. Mr Newman was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

Michael Crabtree, finance director of Ferguson at the time it acquired parts of Barlow Clowes, was suspended from the institute for a year effective from 31 January, and told to pay costs of £5,000. Five others were either reprimanded or admonished. They and one other were ordered to pay costs ranging from £4,000 to £20,000.

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