Forensic investigations can clear as well as condemn
A forensic investigation lasting almost two years into former Tesco Chief Financial Officer, Laurie McIlwee, has resulted in it being closed. In December 2014, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) launched an investigation into the action of Tesco’s financial team following the discovery of a ‘black hole’ in the company’s accounts that was eventually valued at £263m.
The clearance by the FRC means that Mr McIlwee, who has not held a full-time role since leaving the supermarket giant, is unlikely to face any action over the scandal. It also means that he can now look for another role following a very “disruptive” time over the past two years.
Speaking after the FRC’s announcement, Mr McIlwee said that the investigation of the last three years when he was Tesco’s CFO was very thorough. As is the norm with forensic investigations, the accountants reviewed thousands of documents, conducted interviews and “effectively exonerated” him of any wrongdoing.
However, he added that he had been a witness to the Serious Fraud Offices’ (SFO) separate criminal probe, which was launched after a whistleblower in the finance department alerted the authorities to apparent irregularities in the way that supplier payments were booked.
Mr McIlwee said he was looking forward to a return to full-time employment having been cleared by the accountancy watchdogs and added that he had had a role to go to after resigning from Tesco in 2014 but that it was “understandably” withdrawn.
Many people believe that forensic accountants are brought in to establish guilt but they are actually engaged to get to the truth, which may well be that the people implicated did no wrong.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 2 September 2016
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