Kate Bleasdale Employment Tribunal: HCL founder denies she ‘adjusted figures’
Fri, 13 Apr 2012
A London Employment Tribunal yesterday heard Kate Bleasdale, the founder and former executive chairman of Healthcare Locums (HCL), deny claims she had “adjusted figures" in the company’s accounts.
In her first day of giving evidence, Bleasdale also denied claims she put forward figures “that the City wanted to hear”.
Bleasdale, who was dismissed by HCL on 11 March 2011, is claiming £12m in damages against her former company and a number of former colleagues
for unfair dismissal, victimisation and sex discrimination.
During cross-examination Emma Smith, a barrister working on behalf of law firm Manches, and representing five of the respondents, referred to internal HCL correspondence, which she claimed indicated that Bleasdale “adjusted figures” in the management accounts sent to her by former finance director Diane Jarvis. Jarvis resigned from HCL in March 2011.
Bleasdale, who is representing herself at the Tribunal, denied the claim. “No. Diane Jarvis produced the accounts, I am not capable of making any adjustments to the numbers. I didn’t prepare the numbers, nor did I alter the numbers.
“There were something like eight qualified accountants in HCL. It was their responsibility to ensure the accounts were correct,” said Bleasdale.
After the discovery of “serious accounting irregularities” HCL was forced to restate its 2009 accounts and to suspend its shares on AIM in January 2011.
Smith also claimed Bleasdale “put forward a view on figures that you wanted the City to hear.”
However, Bleasdale denied this. “The numbers are the numbers and the forecasts are the forecasts. It is not what they want to hear, it is about what is going to happen.”
In further questioning Bleasdale was asked about “an allegation” that she wasn’t prepared to continue to work with Diane Jarvis, and had threatened to resign and sell her shares in HCL.
Bleasdale said that this occurred at a board meeting in May 2010, though she couldn’t be sure of the date, and that she had to be persuaded not to take this course of action. “Alasdair Liddell (HCL’s former deputy chairman) said ‘it would be a disaster’ if I resigned and sold my shares, and unfortunately I didn’t,” said Bleasdale.
MS refuted this, saying “You didn't say you were going to resign”, and questioned why such an important matter did not appear in the minutes, Bleasdale said that board meetings at HCL were “not fully minuted”.
Bleadale told the tribunal of how Diane Jarvis turned up at a board meeting in March 2010. “She was pale and shaking and apologising to all and told the board 'I have lost my accounting ethics’,” said Bleasdale.
Bleasdale said this followed the discovery by HCL’s auditors BDO of an email confirming three placements in the Middle East.
After the discovery of the email, Bleasdale told the tribunal that Jarvis had “explained to the board that she had actively requested staff to make this email up”.
Bleasdale said that she suggested delaying the auditing of the accounts “to get to the bottom of the issue”. However, she said: “I was overruled by the board.”
Earlier, Bleasdale threw light on her role in building up HCL into a major company. “Bringing disparate entrepreneurs together and creating a big business, that is what I can do. It is what I am good at, for some reason it is the only thing I am good at,” said Bleasdale.
The respondents listed in the tribunal are:
- Healthcare Locums
- Alan Walker – former HCL chairman who resigned in February 2011
- Alasdair Liddell – former deputy chairman - left HCL in February 2011
- Peter Sullivan – current HCL chairman
- David Henderson – current non-executive director at HCL
- David Moffatt – former HCL interim chief financial officer between January and June 2011