HLS is considering its options after being left without an auditor and knowing that it could be almost impossible to attract tenders from other firms.
HLS believes a solution may lay in asking the government either to take over the audit – as it has done with banking and insurance services – or to provide an exemption so the identity of future auditors can be kept secret.
‘The government providing an audit service is very unusual but then again the DTI doesn’t normally act as a bank to private companies,’ said an HLS spokesman. The DTI has refused to comment on any future action that it may take.
The decision from Deloitte to drop the HLS audit was sparked by a two-week protest campaign by animal rights group SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) and other activist sympathisers against the firm for its connections a company involved in animal testing. SHAC demonstrated outside offices throughout the UK and across the globe. Deloitte directors were targeted at home, office windows were smashed, and a blockade of email and telephones line was launched.
Government help to HLS is not without precedent. Last month the Department for Trade and Industry was forced to provide emergency insurance for HLS and also provides banking facilities after the Royal Bank of Scotland withdrew it services following similar protests.
Jonathan Hayward, director at Independent Audit, said the protestors had ‘found a more powerful weapon than they realised. He added: ‘The auditor has to be publicly associated with the company and the capital markets insistence that the audit should be done by one of the Big Four restricts choice. HLS is in a bind and the government needs to confront the issue.’
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