New director code of conduct inspired by Carillion collapse

New director code of conduct inspired by Carillion collapse

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is developing a new code of conduct in the wake of the collapse of Carillion and other corporate scandals.

The membership body for directors flagged the findings of research by PR consultancy Edelman, which suggest that trust in UK business is lower than that of many other countries.

The IoD has formed a commission chaired by Lord (Iain) McNicol of West Kilbride and 16 other experts to develop the code.

Members have been drawn mostly from legal, financial and regulatory backgrounds. The panel includes Baroness Margaret Ford, who is a senior adviser to Lendlease and chair of the NewRiver Real Estate Investment Trust.

The commission is set to run until March 2024 and report its findings the following month.

IoD director general Jonathan Geldart said: “Ultimate responsibility for regaining societal trust in business lies with boards of directors. Directors make key decisions across a variety of organisations, and it is essential that they are seen as both competent and ethical actors.

“Although a code of conduct for directors is not a silver bullet, it is an essential starting point. It will enable directors to reaffirm their commitment to high standards of behaviour which reflect the evolving expectations of society.”

Carillion — the UK’s second-largest contractor at the time of its collapse in 2018 — was Britain’s largest-ever corporate failure, collapsing with £7bn-worth of liabilities.

Former chief executive Richard Howson, and finance directors Richard Adam and Zafar Khan, accepted disqualifications from being company directors earlier this year.

The Insolvency Service found them responsible for a variety of breaches between them, including making misleading statements about the contractor’s financial performance.

In announcing the new commission, the IoD cited BHS, Patisserie Valerie, P&O Ferries and the Post Office as other “corporate scandals”.

All of the cases “suggest that business conduct does not always meet the standards expected by society”, it noted in a statement on 26 October.

James Wates, the chairman of Wates in 2018, was appointed by the government that year to chair a cross-business group on corporate governance, which led to a new set of principles for large private companies to follow.

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