News review: rogue trader Nick Leeson lands new job – as insolvency guru

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Nick Leeson – the man famed for racking up £827m worth of trading losses in the collapse of Barings Bank – landed a job as an insolvency expert this week. Steven Perryman delves into this and the other headlines for this week’s news review

You have to pity the nation’s PR managers this week. Picture the scene: you’ve spent weeks, if not months, planning a carefully-orchestrated campaign and you’re all set to go. Then the death of a former Prime Minister washes the news agenda clean in a tsunami of polarised comment and opinion in one fell swoop.

Some news stories are too big to ignore; others just too big full stop. And the death this week of former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was certainly the latter.  There was certainly a strange irony that news of a sharp drop in the numbers of women appointed to the boards of the UK’s top companies should break in this of all weeks.

Away from the polemic gesturing in the national news coverage, it was business as usual for the accountancy press. This week’s focus, inevitably, was on HMRC’s introduction of Real Time Information (RTI) which finally got out of the starting blocks on 6 April (AKA the new tax year).

HMRC PAYE switch hits inevitable IT snag on opening weekend

It didn’t start well, with AccountancyAge reporting that a planned half-day strike by HMRC staff threatened the introduction of the scheme. To compound the issue the Government department’s IT geeks decided last weekend was as good a time as any  to carry out ‘routine, bi-annual maintenance’ of its IT portal. Nice timing, guys.

Again, pity the PR managers who had their own fire-fighting exercise to deal with when the inevitable ‘IT glitch’ happened on launch. The spin? That it showed why RTI is so important because the public can’t rely on the HMRC website. Tell us something we don’t know.

Over in tax, HMRC has been tightening its belt by offering those with offshore accounts in the Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey the chance to make voluntary disclosures on undeclared tax liabilities before facing investigation. The move – catchily titled the Offshore Evasion Stratgy – was picked over by Jon Claypole of Mazars on AAT Comment this week.

Wesley Snipes freed from jail early after tax evasion prosecution

Elsewhere in tax, over the pond film star Wesley Snipes has been released early from prison after being banged up for not paying tax on $37m (£24m) of earnings. This is good news for him, but bad news for filmgoers, leaving the actor free to make another Blade film.

And spare a thought for fashion stalwarts, Dolce & Gabbana, who have been forced by a Milan court to pay a fine of 343.3 million euros (£290m) for tax evasion. The duo opposed the decision the only way you can in the modern age: on Twitter. ‘To be accused of something untrue is not a beautiful thing,’ Stefano Gabbana tweeted angrily, Paris Brown-style. ‘But in the end who cares, we will all finish up six feet under.’ Quite.

Speaking of clothes, despite the best efforts of Nick Clegg (who admitted in a radio interview this week he buys his y-fronts from the store) Marks and Spencer reported its seventh consecutive quarterly fall in clothing sales, blaming the cold weather on a stall in sales of knickers, pants and £20 meal deals.

Nick Leeson – from rogue trader to insolvency expert

While over in Ireland a shudder of disbelief shook the creaking economy with news that Nick Leeson – the man famed for racking up £827m worth of trading losses in the collapse of Barings Bank – has landed a job as an insolvency practitioner. Uh oh.

It’s not all doom and gloom in the economy, though, with a manufacturing rise reported this week raising hopes of the UK avoiding a triple-dip recession. And SMEs finally got something to cheer with news the Government has launched the first phase of its business bank, with £300m to be invested in the venture.

And finally…the woes of spellcheck

Spellcheck really is a Godsend, right? Yes, unless the software you’re using is based on American-English or the word you have spelt ‘wrong’ just so happens to be a different word in itself.

We’ve all been there, certainly, but spare a thought for the poor soul at the BBC who, in their haste at news of Margaret Thatcher’s death, rushed to get the news on the BBC News homepage. The error? ‘Margaret Thatcher has died from a strike‘. It was more Freudian slip than mistake, to be fair.

Perhaps it’s not just the PR manager’s of the land who have had a bad week after all.

Steven Perryman is AAT‘s Editorial Manager

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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