End-of-Year Statement by the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Mr. Paul Appleby (For Release at 00.01, Saturday, 4th January 2003).
Commenting on a Review of 2002 published by his Office, Mr Paul Appleby, Director of Corporate Enforcement, has today described as "extraordinary" the volume of company law enforcement work with which his Office is now dealing.
"2002 was the first full year of ODCE operations, and it was very much a development year. The year was notable for the gradual implementation of various provisions of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001. Two in particular are worthy of mention:
1.the new obligation on auditors to report to my Office suspected indictable offences under the Companies Acts by companies and other parties;
2.the new obligation on the liquidators of many insolvent companies to report on the conduct of the company directors and (unless relieved by my Office) to apply to the High Court to restrict each of those directors.
By the end of 2002, we had received 395 Indictable Reports from auditors, and as these Reports are now coming in at a rate of over 80 per month, it suggests that a doubling of this figure is possible in 2003. Liquidators had also sent us 293 Reports by year-end. I believe that in general the new reporting obligations imposed on auditors and liquidators in the 2001 Act are working well and are bringing to attention many cases of potential misconduct which might otherwise have remained hidden. I want to thank all auditors and liquidators who are complying fully with their new statutory obligations. I also wish to pay tribute to those who contributed earlier in the year to the successful implementation of these reporting provisions, particularly the relevant accountancy and other professional bodies.
In all, my Office has dealt with or is dealing with over 1,300 cases at the end of 2002. In addition to auditor and liquidator reports, this figure includes over 200 other matters which have come to attention via public complaint or otherwise and over 150 cases which were carried forward into 2002 from 2001. These are extraordinary figures for company law work which hitherto had received limited attention.
I am glad to say that despite this heavy workload, we concluded the examination of over 600 cases, or about 50% of the cases on hands. Nevertheless, the Office faces significant challenges ahead in addressing cases of serious misconduct which will be resource and time-intensive."