Clarkson fires its chief executive

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Clarkson, the world's largest shipping broker, yesterday fired its chief executive just a day after it was forced to make its second provision this year against a $67m (£34m) legal dispute with Sovcomflot, the Russian state-owned tanker giant.

The broker said Richard Fulford-Smith, who has run Clarkson for four years, had accepted a request from its board to step down. On Monday, Clarkson said it was setting aside £8m as a provision against the Sovcomflot litigation, which concerns allegations that Clarkson paid illicit third-party commissions in Russia.

While Clarkson has not accepted any liability for the claims, it said the provision had been made "as a result of the discovery of new evidence and ongoing discussions with the claimants".

It is understood directors at Clarkson told Mr Fulford-Smith shareholders would expect him to take responsibility for the provision, particularly since it came on top of an announcement in January that the broker had set aside £4m to cover liabilities arising from the dispute. The latest provision does not include that£4m. Clarkson has also incurred several million pounds in legal costs.

Clarkson's financial performance over the past 12 months has been impressive thanks to a boom in shipping related to the huge global demand for commodities. But its share price has been held back by the Sovcomflot litigation.