PwC sued over BSE

PricewaterhouseCoopers is being sued for damages for negligence and breach of contract by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food over work on compensation for the mad cow crisis.

MAFF claims that the firm produced incorrect figures, so that a family business in Huddersfield was paid compensation of almost £200,000 more than it should have been.

After the government announced the link between BSE in cattle and new variant CJD in people in 1996, a dramatic slump in beef sales followed, and MAFF decided to give temporary financial help to rendering businesses hit by the ban on meat and bone meal feed for farm animals.

PwC’s predecessor Coopers and Lybrand entered into a £1.3m contract to advise MAFF on levels of payment to each rendering business, according to a High Court writ.

After visiting A and W Chambers Ltd, a small family meat processing business in Huddersfield, the firm advised MAFF to pay £216,020 instead of the £33,234 which should have been due, the writ says.

This was because the firm had calculated compensation on the basis of 14 tonnes of meat and bone meal a week, instead of the correct figure of two tonnes a week.

MAFF claims that it lost at least #182,786 through the firm’s alleged negligence and breach of contract in advising it to pay incorrect amounts of money.

The writ was issued by Leslie Blake, solicitor for MAFF, of Whitehall, London SW1.

A PwC spokesman said the firm had been in discussions on the issue which it fully expected to be resolved soon.

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