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Lessons must be learnt from BHS collapse

03 Jun 2016

The IoD has today heavily criticised the parties involved in the sale of BHS last year to a consortium led by Dominic Chappell, a three-time bankrupt. It was announced yesterday that no buyer had been found for BHS, with the chain’s 163 stores now set to close.

In a letter to the chairmen of a joint parliamentary committee currently investigating the collapse of BHS, Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of the Directors, called the episode “a blight on the reputation of British Business.” “Serious questions need to be asked of almost everybody concerned in the running of BHS, the sale, and the company’s demise,” he said.

This was “not just an issue for the company concerned, but for the business community as a whole,” Walker argued. He contrasted Sir Philip Green’s celebrity lifestyle with the situation of “the vast majority of British business people [who] are more likely to have mortgaged their house to build their organisations than they are to own a superyacht.”

Walker said it was “alarming” that the Chair of Arcadia, Lord Grabiner, had not been involved in discussions over the sale of BHS, only finding out about the final decision several days after it had happened. “Delegation of decision-making” should not be “confused with devolution of accountability,” Walker added.

The regulators also came in for criticism in the letter, with Walker saying that the Pensions Regulator and the Financial Reporting Council, could not put the matter in the “’too hard’ box.” “We cannot have another HBOS-style situation,” the head of the IoD said, referring to the investigation by regulators into the collapse of HBOS in 2008, which is still ongoing eight years later.

The IoD commended the decision by the MPs Frank Field and Iain Wright to form a joint investigation, and urged them to ensure the “appropriate lessons are learnt” by regulators, pension trustees, corporate advisors and the business community at large.

The full text of the letter, which was received by the joint committee today, can be found here.

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