Lord Lee of Trafford (Lib Dem) is a celebrated private investor, who, among many other things, has for a long time written a column in the FT newspaper about investing. One of the former MP’s declared non-financial interests is his role as a trustee of charity The Lee And Bakirgian Family Trust (registered charity number: 1046940). Here I reveal a problem with the latest accounts for the north west charity, made up to 30 September 2016.
Income that year, £30 236, is above the statutory threshold for external scrutiny of the accounts, £25k. Yet there was no external scrutiny of the accounts. That is, there’s no evidence of an independent examination.
In July 2017, I twice requested a comment from the public contact for the charity, Simon Ellis at accountants Jackson Stephen LLP, Warrington (email). I didn’t receive a response.
On 18 August 2017, a spokesperson for regulator the Charity Commission told me in a written statement: “The Commission will be contacting the trustees to request they re-submit their accounts in the correct format so that we can be satisfied the accounts we hold are accurate and in line with charity law.”
There‘s an unexplained discrepancy of almost £100k between two independent public sources for political donations made by shoe repair and key-cutting business Timpson Ltd for the eight years 2009-2016. Further, there’s incomplete disclosure of recipient in one of the sources, the company annual reports and accounts. These all show the Conservatives as recipient, failing to identify explicitly Edward Timpson MP as recipient. The MP, who was a government minister until losing his seat in the 2017 general election, is a related party of the family business. Thus the political donations are related party transactions – undisclosed related party transactions.
The firm’s last accounts were made up to 1 October 2016, Companies House records show (registered company number: 00675216). And at that year-end Timpson Ltd hadmade 13 political donations, all non-cash and total value £730.4k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. The recipient was the same each time: Edward Timpson MP.
Conservative Mr Timpson lost his seat, Crewe and Nantwich, to Labour by just 48 votes at the last general election in June 2017, having first been elected in May 2008 in a by-election. His last role in government was as Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families at the Department for Education July 2016-June 2017.
Beginning in 2009, Timpson Ltdmade at least one donation to the MP each of the eight years, Electoral Commission records show.
Political donations above £2k must be disclosed by a company in the directors’ report within the annual report. For each year 2009-2016, political donations were disclosed in the annual report. And the recipient was the same each time: the “Conservative Party”. But here the total value was £633.0k – almost £100k (i.e. £97.4k) less than the Electoral Commission total, £730.4k (Table 1). (The 2009 directors’ report states that the firm made no political donations in 2008.)
Table 1. Political donations by Timpson Ltd 2009-2016 (GBP 000)
There’s something else about the company annual reports and accounts: they all fail to identify explicitly Edward Timpson MP as recipient of the political donations. It’s merely the Conservatives. This incomplete disclosure is disappointing because Edward, as hislast name suggests, is a member of the eponymousfamily who own and runthe ubiquitous high-street retailer. He’s a son of director Sir John Timpson, who’s company chair; and brother of director James Timpson, who succeeded his father as chief executive in 2011. Both Sir John and James are high-profile business figures.
But the incomplete disclosure doesn’t stop there. The company annual reports and accounts all fail to disclose the donations to the MP as related party transactions. Edward is a related party of Timpson Ltd because he‘s a close family member of Sir John and James (see International Accounting Standard 24 Related Party Disclosures (IAS 24): http://www.iasplus.com/en-gb/standards/ias/ias24). Thus the political donations are related party transactions – undisclosed related party transactions.
Prior to this year’s general election, Timpson Ltd didn’t respond to requests for comment. I wrote twice to the family business in May 2017 via its website. On each occasion I received nothing but an immediate automated acknowledgement of receipt (email). The retailer became responsive after the general election, however. On 21 July 2017, I contacted it for the third time via the website. In her response for Timpson Ltd three days later (email), Christine Hickman enclosed “a reply that should have been sent to you.” It said: “Further to your enquiry our independent external auditors have confirmed that the disclosures we have made in our statutory accounts are in compliance with the Large and Medium-sized Companies and Groups (Accounts and Reports) Regulations 2008. We have made enquiries of the Electoral Commission and are awaiting a response.”
I thanked Ms Hickman for the email by reply the same day (24 July 2017), adding I‘d await her further response. At date of publication I‘ve heard nothing.
The Daily Mail persists in publishing full-page ads for a fake limited company, despite my complaints to the newspaper.
Health Broadcast Ltd is the advertiser. There’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register.
I first came across Health Broadcast Ltd ads in the Mail on 11 March 2017, in an ad for “detox foot patches”: Daily Mail 11 Mar 2017 p.100. When I rang the freephone number shown, no one could explain why Health Broadcast Ltd wasn’t on the Companies House register, either. Further, everyone I spoke to referred to “Health Broadcast” only, without the “Ltd” (Limited) suffix.
On the same day, I complained to the Mail’s readers’ editor (email). I received an anonymous response a few days later, thanking me for contacting the newspaper. He/she had “alerted our advertising department and asked them to investigate as a matter of urgency.” I wrote back the same day saying I expected to hear from the Mail in due course.
But I didn’t hear anything.
On 27 May 2017, meanwhile, Health Broadcast Ltd had another full-page ad in the paper; this time for a “pain-relieving gel”: Daily Mail 27 May 2017 p.104. I therefore complained again to the readers’ editor, on 1 June 2017, pointing out this was the second time I’d done so. I finished by asking: why does the Daily Mail persist in betraying its readers for the sake of the advertiser?
I received another anonymous response from the “readers’ editor’s office” the next day. It said: “We have passed your latest email on to our advertising department and asked them to look into it. We will revert to you when we can shed further light on the situation.”
Yet, again, I heard nothing.
On 8 July 2017, I then saw the ad for the “pain-relieving gel” again: Daily Mail 8 July 2017. But Health Broadcast Ltd had changed its trading address to prestigious Mayfair in central London – 43 Berkeley Square, London W1J 5AP. This is the address of Hatton & Berkeley Global Limited (registered company number: 10145165), a professional business services firm. Its services include virtual offices in London; 43 Berkeley Square is its Berkeley Square virtual office address. (www.hattonandberkeley-virtualoffice.com)
On 12 July 2017, I called the phone number in the latest ad, which remained the same after the change in trading address. Again, my call was answered as “Health Broadcast” only. And again, the call handler seemingly couldn’t explain why Health Broadcast Ltd wasn’t registered at Companies House. But he could supply an email address for the alleged limited company: email@example.com.
At date of publication I haven’t received a response to emails asking why Health Broadcast Ltd isn’t on the Companies House register.
Also, at date of publication there isn’t a company website at domain healthbroadcastltd.com. Without a website, there’s almost no publicly available information about the alleged limited company. Matthew Ward at UpsilonDM Limited (registered company number: 07207377) is registrant of the domain, according to Whois records. Filings at Companies House show Mr Ward is sole director of UpsilonDM Limited, which has a registered office address in Whitley Bay in North East England.
The Health Broadcast Ltd full-page ads continue in the Daily Mail – the most recent I saw was on 14 August 2017: Daily Mail 14 Aug 2017 p.68. Here I say nothing about the validity (or not) of the health claims in the ads. Rather, I ask only: why is the newspaper persisting in publishing ads for a fake limited company?