Britain’s accounting watchdog has been asked why it has not published its full report into PwC’s auditing of the collapsed retailer BHS, several weeks after the High Court gave it permission to do so.
Frank Field, the chair of the House of Common’s work and pensions committee, wrote to the Financial Reporting Council to ask when the report would be released. He asked for an explanation if no firm date could be given, and suggested that the committee might publish its own copy of the report.
The FRC fined PwC a record £6.5m in June and the report is thought to be highly critical. Subsequently, Philip Green, whose holding company Taveta sold BHS in 2015 for £1 to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt, applied for an injunction to prevent the FRC releasing the report.
He argued that the “serious criticisms” contained in the report could cause Taveta, its directors and employees “potentially irreparable harm”.
The application was rejected at the end of June, but Mr Justice Nicklin said in his ruling that it could be argued by Taveta that there was a duty of fairness to a defendant wanting to protect their reputation which “should be observed before any defamatory allegations are published”.
Mr Field said in his letter that despite a commitment in July from the FRC to publish the documents “as soon as possible”, the contents of the report “have still not seen the light of day”.
He called on the FRC to provide a detailed account of the processes it is following relating to the publication of the report, including what involvement Taveta has had in that process.
He added that the committee might decide to give the documents to the House of Commons in September so that they could be published and he asked whether the FRC “would have any objection”.
The demise of BHS in 2016, which collapsed with a huge pension deficit and the loss of 11,000 jobs, was one of Britain’s most controversial corporate failures.
The FRC said it was continuing to “digest the detail of the judgment”. A spokesperson for the regulator said it planned to respond to Mr Field “in due course” and that the watchdog “wishes to publish the report in the public interest”.
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