Yorkshire chairman banned from auditing in wake of BHS collapse

Headingley from the West Stand Getty Images

Steve Denison, the chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, is facing a lengthy exclusion from audit work after being handed one of the biggest personal fines in the history of accountancy regulation.

Sky News have revealed that Denison, a former partner at accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is to be fined GBP500,000 and banned (ESPNcricinfo understands he actually voluntarily agreed to sign an undertaking not to audit and withdraw his name from the register of statutory auditors) for 15 years by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) for his part in the audit of BHS ahead of its controversial sale by Philip Green in 2014. Denison was lead partner on the BHS audit.

The deal, which included a GBP215million write-off of debt, saw the lossmaking business with a large pension deficit sold to Dominic Chappell, a three-time former bankrupt with no retail experience, for GBP1. BHS subsequently went into administration and, after no buyer was found, was wound down. 11,000 jobs were lost and the pension deficit was assessed to be GBP571million. Green eventually agreed to pay GBP363million into the pension scheme after the Pensions Regulator initiated legal action against him.

It is understood that Denison left PwC voluntarily last week. Sky News have reported that the fine will be reduced to GBP325,000 after Denison agreed to settle. He will be in his late 60s by the time the exclusion expires so it effectively ends his career. He is also understood to have agreed to remove himself from the register of statutory auditors, though he remains a chartered accountant.

Denison had previously been obliged to appear before a House of Commons Select Committee who wanted to know why PwC had been prepared to sign off the company's accounts as a going concern when insolvency seemed imminent.

While there is yet to be any official word on Denison's position at Yorkshire it seems inevitable he will stand down. The ECB's 'Fit and Proper Person' test states that an individual cannot be on a board or general committee if they are "subject to any form of suspension, disqualification or striking-off by a professional body including, without limitation, the Law Society, the Solicitors' Regulation Authority, the Bar Council or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales or any equivalent body in any jurisdiction outside England and Wales, whether such suspension,disqualification or striking-off is direct or indirect."

"The Directors of The Yorkshire County Cricket Club await the full report of the FRC relating to the conduct of its Chairman Mr Steve Denison in his capacity as an Audit Partner of PWC," a statement from Yorkshire sent to ESPNcricinfo read. "Once all the information has been gleaned, the Board will decide an appropriate course of action.

"No further comment on this matter will be made by the Club, or individuals, until the process has been completed."