Fresh probe for former Bradford & Bingley exec

Marion Dakers
THE ACCOUNTING watchdog has launched an investigation into Chris Willford, the former finance director of bailed-out banking group Bradford & Bingley.

The Financial Reporting Council’s probe comes a month after Willford was fined £30,000 by the Financial Conduct Authority for failing to alert the bank’s board to key financial risks ahead of B&B’s attempted rights issue and subsequent rescue in 2008 and 2009.

The bank was eventually split into two, its deposits and branches were sold to Santander, while its loans remained with the government.

Willford, a qualified accountant, was the bank’s finance chief between October 2005 and June 2009.

He was found by the FCA in December to have “failed to take a sufficiently proactive approach” when the bank’s position deteriorated, and fell short of the standard expected of senior directors.

The FRC has the power to impose a further fine on Willford and ban him from practicing as an accountant. It said yesterday that it had opened an investigation under the accountancy scheme into Willford’s conduct.

Willford was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The watchdog has launched several high-profile probes in recent months, including an investigation into the audits done on Co-op Bank’s accounts before the bank revealed a £1.5bn capital shortfall last year.

The FRC is also looking into the auditors of RSA following irregularities in the insurer’s Irish business. Last year it imposed a £14m fine, its largest ever penalty, on Deloitte for failing to manage possible conflicts of interest during the takeover and subsequent collapse of MG Rover.