Worthington Nicholls FD stripped of license in tribunal

THE PROFESSION’S watchdog has sanctioned the finance director of listed air conditioning installer Worthington Nicholls, by taking away his license to practice as a chartered accountant.

The former FD Timothy Hunt has been excluded by the ICAEW for six years after he was found to have produced “materially false and misleading” financial statements, The Financial Times reports.

The ban is the second longest handed down by the disciplinary and investigations arm (AADB) of the Financial Reporting Council.

Hunt was found guilty of producing misleading interim accounts in June 2007 including £770,000 turnover which he had no evidence of.

The AADB also said Hunt failed to stop misleading information being dished out to investors ahead of the share placement by Worthington Nicholls, estimated to be worth £20m.

Tom Martin, (pictured) alternative executive counsel at the AADB, told the publication: “The sanction reflects the gravity of the misconduct and Mr Hunt’s refusal to accept responsibility for his actions for the last three years.”

“Mr Hunt was party to misleading regulatory news service announcemnets and, more seriously issuing a set of misleading interim accounts for Worthington Nicholls Group.”

Richard Jones QC, who chaired the tribunal, said that Hunt “fell short of the standards expected of a professional accountant”.

In May 2007 Hunt allowed a share placement letter containing misleading information to be sent out to the market. It said that current trading was strong, however the business had a net cash outflow of about £285,000 and needed external funding.

The tribunal argued that Hunt was the sole qualified accountant on the board and should have realised the company’s financial position.

An independent disciplinary tribunal will be appointed to hear the formal complaint and an investigation into auditor Haines Watts’ conduct is currently still on-going.

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