The company told Accountancy Age that in order to attract an accounting firm to conduct its audit it might hire a firm to audit the company’s figures for one year only. It would then sever ties with that firm before the auditor was publicly revealed in the company accounts and could then move on and employ another auditor the following year.
‘From a legislative point of view, we don’t necessarily have to make public who is working on our audit until after the work is completed,’ said a spokesman for HLS. ‘That firm may not actually be working for us by the time the information is published.’
But HLS pointed out that this was just one of the options under consideration. No final decision has yet been made and when it is, it said that it would be keeping its cards very close to its chest in order to avoid further interventions by protesters.
The company, which has been the subject of action by campaigners due to its links with testing on animals, has been left without an auditor since Deloitte & Touche refused to re-tender for its contract due to similar action by protesters. In a two-week campaign, the offices of D&T and partners’ homes were targeted by campaigners while the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for breaking windows and spraying paint on several of these properties.
HLS has also been in talks with the Department of Trade & Industry in order to help solve the audit problem, with many firms thought to be reluctant to take it on as a client and risk action against its staff. The DTI, however, said the appointment of an auditor was a ‘commercial issue’ and it was unlikely to get involved in this.
HLS will lose its listing on the OTC Bulleting Board in the US if it fails to submit a set of audited accounts to the SEC for next year’s figures. Last week, it won an injunction preventing animal rights protesters from approaching within 50 yards of employees’ homes. It is believed almost 2,000 British directors have successfully applied for their private addresses to be struck off records at Companies House due to fear of attacks.
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