Companies House is a national disgrace

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The FT has drawn attention this morning to the story of Kevin Brewer. He is the company formation agent who, because he was so fed up with Companies House creating systems that permitted absolute gibberish to be filed as company data as if it were true, made his point by creating two companies using false data. As a Companies House press release noted, the false data was personal information of ministers who had been or were responsible for Companies House. As they put it:

UK's ‘first ever' successful prosecution for false company information

A company director has been fined for deliberately falsifying information about his firms in what is thought to be the first-ever conviction of its kind.

Kevin Brewer, a businessman, incorporated John Vincent Cable Services Ltd in 2013, making the former Business Secretary Vince Cable MP a director and shareholder without his knowledge. The company was dissolved and taken off the company register after Companies House took action.

Brewer, 65, then formed another company in 2016, Cleverly Clogs Ltd, making Baroness Neville-Rolfe — the Minister with responsibility for Companies House — James Cleverly MP and an imaginary Israeli national, Ibrahim Aman, all directors and shareholders without their knowledge. Companies House dissolved the company and took it off the company register.

Brewer, from Ullenhall in Warwickshire, was ordered to pay over £12,000 after he pleaded guilty to filing false information on the UK's company register at a hearing in Redditch Magistrates' Court last Thursday 15 March.

This is thought to be the first time a company director has been successfully prosecuted for falsifying company information under laws which came into force in 2009.

A Companies House spokesperson said:

"Deliberately filing false information on the register is a serious offence and people who have been found to have knowingly done this can face prosecution."

Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said:

"This prosecution — the first of its kind in the UK — shows the Government will come down hard on people who knowingly break the law and file false information on the company register.

"Companies House works hard to protect and continually upgrade the company register, identifying potentially criminal activities and working closely with law enforcement bodies to help bring those perpetrators to justice."

The company register is operated by Companies House and contains information about company addresses, accounts, and those who own and run companies. There are nearly 4 million companies on the UK's company register and the vast majority of these companies use the register lawfully.

Companies House should be hanging its head in shame at this press release. And this prosecution. Brewer should be getting a medal for public service, and compensation for being persecuted as a whistleblower. Because the simple fact is that, as I have said many times over many years, Companies House is not just a joke: it is a farce.

Not only does it deliberately and persistently falsify data by claiming almost 100% compliance rates by companies by simply removing all those that are non-compliant from the register as soon as default occurs and saying that they are 'in the course of being removed', so completely distorting the public perception of its effectiveness, it also fails to investigate the vast majority of non-compliance. It simply closes companies down rather than take any action to pursue data that should be on public record. And at the same time it does almost nothing at all to make sure that data on record is correct.

So, there are no checks on accounts. They need only balance and they are deemed fit for publication whether or not they comply with the law.

We know they refuse to do standard money laundering checks that are required in the private sector, creating a massive loophole in company law that is exploited by criminals from around the world.

And we know that the only thing they check when getting most documents is that the postcode recorded on them is valid. Not correct, I stress, but valid.

Companies House is a national disgrace. It costs us billions a year in lost tax revenue and probably more in other crimes.

And now it prosecutes those who seek to point out its failings. How much worse can it get?

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