Auditors identified that Thomas Cook’s accounts were vulnerable to manipulation a year before the company collapsed, MPs have heard.
Gedling MP Vernon Coaker, at an inquiry of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee on 22 October, read out part of a management letter sent by auditors EY in 2018.
It reads: “The group accounting policy on SDIs [separately disclosed items] also provides, in our view, too much scope for interpretation and potential manipulation.”
Since the company failed, Cook has come under criticism for its use of exceptional items.
These separately listed one-off payments, used to impact underlying performance, amounted to £1.8 billion over eight years.
Coaker said the public will find it “astonishing” that the accounts were not qualified when EY identified potential manipulation.
“You can’t, clearly, as a firm, potentially manipulate something to hide or potentially disguise so people can’t properly understand what is going on,” Coaker said.
“Then EY, as one of the biggest names in Europe, probably globally, puts that in and then doesn’t qualify the accounts.
“How does that generate confidence in these big firms or companies that are auditing, that the public knows they [the businesses] are being held to account?”
EY audit partner Richard Wilson told MPs on the select committee the accounts weren’t qualified because he asked Cook to change the £35 million of the Separately Disclosed Items.