The Big Question – ‘Coopers got off lightly’

Almost three-quarters of finance directors believe the former Coopers & Lybrand escaped lightly with a #3.5m penalty for failing to police properly the empire of the late Robert Maxwell.

An emphatic 54% of FDs felt the firm had definitely got off lightly with the fine, while a further 19% agreed but were a little more cautious, according to this week’s The Big Question carried out by Accountancy Age and Reed Accountancy Personnel. More than 200 FDs were asked about their opinions of the case.

Some respondents called for the resignations of the partners involved.

Ian Rae, FD of Penlon, the anaesthetic equipment manufacturers, highlighted the lack of punishment for the partners involved.

He said: ‘It is disgraceful that these very highly rewarded individuals should emerge virtually unscathed despite being grossly incompetent.’

Another FD who preferred to remain anonymous, spoke for the 21% of respondents who took a more neutral stance.

‘It would be easy to say “yes”, but the real culprit was Maxwell. He was clever in his own way. It is difficult for auditors who only come in twice a year to pick up on things if they are well hidden,’ he said.

Only 6% of FDs did not agree the fine was a lucky escape.

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