Former Halliwells fixed-share partners query BDO’s impartiality

A group of former Halliwells fixed-share partners have questioned the impartiality of the failed firm’s administrators, claiming they previously benefited “from the most lucrative referral opportunities which Halliwells had”.

The news comes as the group of former fixed-share partners continue to mull action against the former equity partners (17 October 2011).

According to documents filed at the High Court, the former fixed-share partners suspect that Halliwells’ administrators – BDO partners Shay Bannon and Dermot Power – failed to declare an “extremely close relationship between Mr Power and the Manchester corporate recovery practice of Halliwells”.

The former fixed-share partners also question why no mention was made of the £24.5m reverse premium in the administrators’ first creditors’ report in September 2010, particularly when the deal had already been commented on by Power in the regional press earlier that year.

Ultimately, the former fixed-share partners believe that certain former Halliwells equity partners have been given favourable treatment at the expense of the creditors and themselves, and are seeking access to court documents to ascertain whether their suspicions are well founded before bringing the conduct of Halliwells’ former board and the administrators before the court.

One example of the allegedly cosy relationship between BDO and Halliwells partners put forward by the fixed-share group was the administration of Allsports. Here, former corporate recovery head Andrew Buchanan, who was one of the members to profit from the Spinningfields reverse premium windfall (17 June 2011), referred the administration, which incurred time costs of £2.7m, to BDO’s Power.

However, Power has refuted any suggestions of impropriety.

Responding to the allegations, Power said: “I’m aware of this observation, which was made in relation to the joint administrators. The joint administrators had “no prior professional relationship” specifically and only “with the equity partners of Halliwells LLP”. In common with any two eminent professional firms there were numerous times when both firms acted on the same side or against each other when representing clients, across a wide range of disciplines.

“The secured creditors assenting to the court appointment were aware of how professional firms interact with each other. The way in which those firms work was also discussed with the creditors committee who have been supportive of all actions taken in this case.”

The group of 14 former Halliwells fixed-share members are being represented by Irwin Mitchell partner Chris Jones.