KPMG being sued for £1.3bn over Carillion audit

Grant Prior 5 months ago
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KPMG is being sued for £1.3bn by the Official Receiver over its role as auditor to collapsed contractor Carillion.

It is alleged that KPMG failed in its duties as auditor to spot misstatements in the group’s accounts.

Carillion went under in January 2018 owing £7bn including around £2bn to 30,000 suppliers and subcontractors.

The action against KPMG will claim damages of more than £1bn on behalf of creditors – representing the sums Carillion paid out in dividends, advisory fees and losses incurred as the group continued to trade.

Included in the claim are dividends of £210m, professional fees of £31m and losses of more than £1bn incurred as the group continued to trade.

In March 2017, the group reported underlying profit from operations of £236m for the 2016 financial year. But in July and September 2017, Carillion announced total write-downs of £1.045bn, a sum equivalent to the previous seven years’ profits combined.

The write-downs exceeded the market capitalisation of Carillion and were among the largest in UK corporate history.

The focus of the negligence claim is on the value of major long-term construction contracts, which were not properly accounted for in any of the 2014, 2015 or 2016 audits, resulting in misstatements in excess of £800m within Carillion’s financial statements.

These include construction projects valued in the tens or hundreds of millions of pounds, including the Royal Liverpool Hospital, the Southmead Hospital redevelopment, the Aberdeen ring road, significant works at Gatwick and Stansted Airports, and other major projects in the UK and overseas.

Despite knowing that there were problems in relation to these contracts and identifying the audit of construction contracts as a significant risk, KPMG accepted management explanations for inflated revenue and understated cost positions.

A spokesperson for the Official Receiver said: “Following extensive investigations looking into the causes of Carillion’s liquidation, the Official Receiver has submitted a claim to the High Court concerning KPMG’s role as auditor for the company’s accounts.

“The Official Receiver has taken this action in the interests of creditors who lost substantially in the liquidation. The decision is based on legal advice, which is that KPMG is answerable to Carillion’s creditors for a portion of their losses.”

A KPMG UK spokesperson said: “We believe this claim is without merit and we will robustly defend the case. Responsibility for the failure of Carillion lies solely with the company’s board and management, who set the strategy and ran the business.”

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