James Moore: No cheers for the bean counter or the client

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The Independent Online

Outlook It's not often that you feel sympathy for a bean counter, but Tuesday almost provided an exception when Cattles announced plans to sue its former auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Cattles, you may recall, is a doorstep lender whose business involves lending small amounts of money at ludicrously high rates to people who don't have anywhere else to go. It's what Wonga.com would have looked like had it set up in the pre-internet age.

The company fell on the sort of hard times its clients usually face when they have to make loan repayments in 2009 after it emerged that directors had made a mess of provisioning against bad loans.

That's when the fun really started, and after narrowly avoiding going bust, shareholders ultimately saw £5m from a company once worth £1.5bn, while three former directors were fined and banned by the Financial Services Authority. It's a shabby affair involving a shabby company.

In this sort of case it's standard practice to sue your auditor, although success rates are not high. The auditor will usually say that there's not much it could have done given what the men in charge were up to. As for those of us watching from the sidelines, it's really very difficult to cheer for either of the players on the pitch.