Leader – Keeping mum hits business

In business relationships, almost nothing is more important than mutual respect. It underpins everything from the decision to take on an adviser to the extent to which their advice is accepted and acted on.

And nothing does more to undermine mutual respect than the refusal of an adviser to take their own medicine. Which is why the continuing refusal of some of the largest accountancy firms in the land to publish their financial results is so damaging, not just to them but to the reputation of the profession as a whole.

Last week’s Accountancy Age Top 50 survey of firms’ performance once again highlighted the policy of Group A, the loose affiliation of the 20 firms below the Big Five. It insists that its decision not to publish figures is motivated solely by a desire to avoid odious comparisons. How clients must envy them. How finance directors must wish they, too, could avoid comparison with their peers by simply not publishing the figures.

Group A’s inward-looking argument not only ignores the reality of the market, it is also about to be overtaken by events. The very partnership principle that allows firms to hide their results is also a threat to their wealth. But the government’s price for limiting their liability is likely to be a demand for greater openness and proper public reporting. The advent of limited liability partnerships will then bring about what the profession should have already done for itself.

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