Severn Trent Water was fined £2m at the Old Bailey yesterday for lying about its water leakage rates.
Earlier reports had suggested the fine for this unprecedented criminal case could top £70m. And the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), who brought the case against the water firm, had asked the court to make an example of the business to deter others.
However, Judge Jeremy Roberts said the fine had to comply with comparable health and safety offences. Severn Trent pleaded guilty of making false returns to regulator, Ofwat, in 2001 and 2002 last month, and was sentenced yesterday.
Severn Trent chief executive Tony Wray said: “We deeply regret the mistakes of the previous regime. There were indefensible shortcomings in Severn Trent’s previous management and control systems during the 2000 to 2004 era.”
Despite a relatively modest fine, the SFO said it was “satisfied” with the outcome of the case.
The water company is already facing a separate £35.8m fine from regulator Ofwat for separate offences involving providing false information and poor customer service in the four-year period from 2000.
The water firm was led at the time by managing director Brian Duckworth, finance director Mark Wilson and chairman David Arculus. All of whom have now left the company. The SFO said it now considers this case closed, and will not personally pursue any of the directors.
But former managing director Brian Duckworth said his name has been wrongly blackened without being able to defend himself.