At the first hint Rangers illegally ‘won’ league titles, members of the board who made all the controversial decisions called-in all media favours to paint a picture of an innocent mistake being made. Innocent mistakes are occasionally made when registering players, and have been known to cost clubs up to 25% of their annual income in fines, but Lord Nimmo Smith’s Commission will have to consider whether or not, on these many occasions, mistakes were innocent.
Former Rangers chairman, Alastair Johnston, without a hint of remorse, insisted that Rangers failure to properly register players under his tenure was no more than an oversight or administrative error, repeatedly insisting that EBTs had been disclosed to the club’s auditors and recorded in published accounts.
As everyone, apart from those Mr Johnston was happy to give interviews knows, there is nothing illegal with EBTs, nor are they incompatible with proper player registrations. The key issue is whether side-letters existed and whether the club’s auditors and HMRC were treated with honesty and candour.
This is from the First Tier Tribunal decision:
“The Respondents submit that ‘the auditors had not seen the side letters, otherwise they would have been a matter of specific comment’ (para 124.3 of written submissions). It is not clear whether the auditors had actual sight of a side-letter when they made the reference to ‘the text contained within letters sent to individuals outlining their award’.
“For the year ended 30 June 2004, the auditors reported in KIM [Key Issues Memorandum] that Mr Purple had waived his right to his 10% transfer fee, and that a loan of £500,000 to Mr Purple from the Remuneration Trust was ‘unrelated from the contractual amount he would have been due’ (21/15/13).
“It would appear, from the evidence heard on Mr Purple’s termination payment, which is narrated in more detail under the section on ‘Termination Payments’ in my findings of fact, that the auditors had been told an untruth on both scores, regarding the waiver of the right, and the loan being unrelated to the contractual payment on transfer.
“The auditors were also told that the paperwork for Mr Purple was ‘mislaid’, (and therefore was not available for the auditors to inspect).
“Over the use of the remuneration trust, the auditors seemed to have been treated by the Appellants [Rangers] with the same lack of candour as accorded to HMRC. The auditors did not seem to be privy to any (or much) of the documentation, and had not formed a view on the scheme other than relied on what they had been told by the management.”
We will have more on the fiduciary duties of Mr Ogilvie, Mr Bain and Mr McClelland, each of whom were directors of Rangers as well as the SFA or SPL, as well as those of Mr Johnston, in due course. They had fiduciary responsibility to Rangers shareholders, and in the case of Mr McClelland and Mr Bain, to SPL shareholders. This responsibility extended to ensuring information material to the operation of the company was disclosed to auditors and authorities, when required. As for Mr Black (sic), we’ll deal with him another day.
As a part-owner of one SPL shareholder (Celtic PLC), this question has particular resonance.
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