Comet administrators facing disciplinary action

Magnifying glass

The collapse of high street electronics retailer Comet will cost the taxpayer 45 million according to an investigation by the government.

Such mistakes have led to business secretary Vince Cable call on to the accountanting watchdog to investigate the matter.

When the chain went into administration in 2012, 7,000 staff lost their job without any compensation, while it was reported investors received payouts of 120 million.

Now, the government is saying it will pay out 26 million to former staff following an employment tribunal that stated staff was not properly consulted over the job losses, despite already making payments of 18.4 million.

The tribunal stated that only 18.4 million was paid out at the time because that is all the money the company had to pay off staff.

However, Business Secretary Vince Cable is now saying it's unfair to expect the taxpayer to foot the bill because administration firm Deloitte didn't deal with the redundancies in the proper way and failed to consult with those affected.

Christopher Farrington, Nicholas Edwards and Neville Kahn now face an investigation by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) because they had previously consulted with the company on other matters, resulting in a conflict of interest.

Cable said: "The taxpayer now faces a multimillion-pound compensation bill as result of the failure to consult employees. There can be no excuse for failing to comply with the law, which is very clear in this area. It is vital that the regulator establishes why this happened and whether disciplinary action against the administrators is appropriate."

A Deloitte spokesperson told The Guardian: "It is not unusual for an administrator to be appointed to an insolvent company following a period as an adviser. Indeed, the administrator having knowledge of a company's financial and commercial challenges is generally beneficial to all creditors and employees."

The firm also said all employees were advised in writing that redundancies were likely, but the consultation process had to be carried out in a short timescale.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.