Three former members of AssetCo management excluded from accountancy profession

AssetCo was an AIM-listed fire and rescue services business that provided fire engines to the London Fire Brigade
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THREE once-prominent Northern Ireland businessmen have been banned from the accountancy profession for a combined 42 years and been fined a total of £500,000 for their roles in misconduct relating to an AIM-listed fire engine firm now based in the Middle East.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) confirmed the censures for the three former executives of AssetCo plc, after a disciplinary tribunal found they had committed misconduct in relation to the preparation and approval of the company's financial statements for the 2009 and 2010 financial years.

AssetCo's former chief executive John Shannon (52), ex-chief financial officer Frank Flynn (54) and former financial controller Matthew Boyle were excluded for 16 years, 14 years and 12 years respectively.

Fines of £250,000, £150,000 and £100,000 respectively were also imposed on the trio.

AssetCo was an AIM-listed fire and rescue services business that provided fire engines to the London Fire Brigade.

As a result of the misconduct, the company substantially restated its financial statements in 2011 (£146m reduction in assets, £25m reduction in profit) and significant loss was caused by the collapse in share price from 60p to 1.75p.

The dishonest conduct of management was concealed. The FRC opened its investigation in late 2014.

The FRC's executive counsel brought a total of 27 allegations of misconduct against Shannon, Flynn and Boyle before the tribunal, chaired by Sir Bernard Eder, and he made findings of misconduct in relation to all of them.

These included findings of dishonesty and failing to act in accordance with core standards of integrity, objectivity and competence, which related to dealing with company funds, the preparation of financial statements, and the recognition of fictitious assets and revenue.

The tribunal also found that they had each misled the auditors Grant Thornton.

Claudia Mortimore from the FRC said: “The misconduct of the three accountants in this case is the most serious the FRC has put before a tribunal.

"In addition to the financial harm caused to the company and to many investors, the actions of these individuals have damaged public confidence in the profession.

"The tribunal has recognised this and it is reflected in the imposition of lengthy periods of exclusion (being the longest ordered to date), as well as substantial financial penalties. These sanctions should send a clear message that the manipulation of financial statements, and in particular dishonesty, will be dealt with robustly.”

Until October 2015 Raymond Francis (Frank) Flynn had been listed as a director of Belfast-based defibrillator maker Heartsine before it was acquired by a US company.

Mr Shannon is still listed as an active director of minibus and ambulance-maker UV Modular in Brighouse in Yorkshire, which has been in administration since 2010. His address is given as Loughanmore Road in Dunadry.

It is not known if any or all of the trio are still living in Northern Ireland and it is believed they could still retain some business interests in the Middle East.

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