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Staff at accounting firm RSM and corporate advisory group Quantuma allegedly received tip-offs about potential future work from employees of the UK government’s Insolvency Service in a scandal that has led to at least four people being sacked.
The Insolvency Service, which often hires professional services firms to run insolvency processes on its behalf, said last week it had fired three of its own employees in 2023 over improper sharing of information with people in the private sector.
The people alleged to have received the information worked for RSM, one of the largest mid-tier accounting firms behind the Big Four, and mid-market corporate advisory group Quantuma, several people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times.
Public sector bodies are required to follow strict rules when procuring the services of private businesses to ensure transparency and reduce the risk of corruption.
Quantuma, which has worked as administrator of Derby County football club and luxury fashion group Ralph & Russo, told the Financial Times it had dismissed an employee who was involved.
RSM, auditor to FTSE 350 groups including bakery chain Greggs and Sports Direct owner Frasers Group, declined to comment or to confirm whether it had taken disciplinary action against any staff member. “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on this matter,” it said.
The collusion scandal is the latest in a series of high-profile misconduct cases in the sector, which a group of MPs branded a “wild west” in 2021.
At least some of the people involved did not hold senior or leadership roles, said two people familiar with the matter, making it the latest case of alleged misconduct by junior or mid-level staff at professional firms.
A former Goldman Sachs analyst is on trial in London over alleged insider trading, while several KPMG auditors, including mid-ranking staff and a former trainee, were penalised in 2022 for misleading regulators.
Quantuma said it had immediately suspended an employee when it was informed of allegations by the Insolvency Service before dismissing the person in August after an investigation. It added that the employee was not a licensed insolvency practitioner, the term for senior professionals who can be personally appointed to run personal or company insolvencies.
“We take matters like this extremely seriously. Upon notification we took immediate and swift action and we believe that what happened was effectively a rogue employee,” Quantuma said.
Quantuma, part of K3 Capital Group, was “very disappointed” at what had happened and has taken steps to make sure its internal processes are adequate, it added.
The Insolvency Service and Quantuma said the matter had been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which has powers to prosecute alleged breaches of UK data regulations. The ICAEW, a professional body responsible for regulating the sector, was also notified, they said.
The ICAEW can impose sanctions, including fines and the suspension of practitioners’ licences, if it finds there was misconduct. It said its rules prevent it from commenting on whether any matter was being considered for investigation.
The Insolvency Service declined to comment on the firms involved and whether the three people it dismissed had received any payments or other benefits in exchange for sharing information.
Giving or receiving a bribe is a criminal offence in the UK and employers of people involved in such misconduct can also be prosecuted for failing to prevent it if they do not have adequate safeguards and procedures in place, such as training and monitoring of staff.