Conflicting versions of events at a key Healthcare Locums (HCL) board meeting have emerged at the Employment Tribunal at which the founder and former executive vice-chairman of Healthcare Locums (HCL) is claiming £12m in damages from HCL and a number of former colleagues.
The differences came to light on the seventh day of the tribunal, as Kate Bleasdale cross-examined former HCL’s former deputy chairman Alastair Liddell about events at a board meeting on 20 March 2010.
It was as at this meeting that Bleasdale claims that HCL’s former finance director Diane Jarvis told the board she had “lost her accounting ethics”
as reported by recruiter.co.uk
However, Liddell contradicted Bleasdale’s version of events: “I don’t remember her saying that, and I would have remembered it.”
Liddell added that nor had he heard Jarvis say, as Bleasdale has also claimed, that she instructed Barry Pactor, then managing director in HCL’s international division, to doctor an email relating to three placements in the Middle East.
Following the discovery of the email by HCL’s auditors BDO, Alan Walker asked Diane Jarvis to carry out an investigation.
When asked by Bleasdale whether he was concerned that the board had asked Jarvis to undertake the investigation given her claimed admission at the meeting on 20 March, Liddell said the decision had been justified. “I didn’t have any evidence that she had falsified the email, or asked anyone else to falsify the email. At that stage there was no suggestion that Diane Jarvis had any involvement.”
Liddell said that rather than sending a team from BDO to the Middle East to investigate the email, which would have led to a further delay in HCL’s results, the board decided to change its accounting policy so that revenue from permanent placements was only recognised in the accounts when the candidate began work. “This was a perfectly reasonable step to take,” said Liddell.
In his witness statement, Liddell says that Bleasdale opposed the change. “Kate needed some persuading to change the policy, but she did agree to it. She was unhappy and she said in effect it amounted to a profit warning in that the results were being published with a figure below the expectations. It was also being done with no notice at all to the City.”
Last week, giving evidence to the tribunal, Bleasdale said she told the board at the 20 March meeting that “delaying the results by two weeks was in my view the best way to make sure we had the correct numbers”.
Yesterday, Bleasdale told the tribunal
that the change in accounting policy amounted to a cover-up.
Bleasdale claimed that after HCL chairman Alan Walker and Dave Riches, HCL’s financial controller, visited HCL’s Loughton offices with HCL’s auditors soon after the 20 March board meeting to speak to Pactor, Walker had said: “We have decided to paper over the cracks.”
The tribunal continues.