Many of us heard about the South Sea Bubble in our history lessons and the huge losses caused as a result of the over inflation of share prices compared to the real earnings of the South Sea Company have probably never been matched subsequently.
However have you heard of the Arena Television Scandal?
We had not until a senior consultant who had deep experience in the finance sector contacted us and we found ourselves looking back in time to software that we produced that had resolved asset fraud years ago.
But first things first let me summarise what the Arena Television fraud was about.
The Company, as its name suggests, was an outside broadcaster employed to film events for the BBC, ITV and Sky, amongst others.
To do this an organisation requires substantial amounts of expensive high tech equipment, film cameras and their accessories being not the least of this equipment.
Anyone watching an arena event on television will appreciate that it is not just a few cameras that are involved.
Also the inputs and outputs concerned need to be managed by sophisticated control equipment so, for example, the best view of an incident can be selected for viewing virtually instantly during a broadcast.
Like many businesses requiring equipment do, Arena Television and its associated companies obtained this equipment via Hire Purchase and Leasing.
However what the Directors of Arena Television allowed to happen was that finance was obtained for items that did not exist in actuality.
Let me explain to the uninitiated that what one is referring to here is not things which are registered via well-established processes which cover vehicles, boats, planes and properties but items which are not recorded in such regulated ways.
One way that this can happen is if an item that actually exists is financed with one finance provider and then financed again by another finance provider then in essence the second provider cannot take the item to recoup their loss if the payments are not met.
In short the finance company in the second case is financing fresh air.
In the case of Arena when an auditor acting in relation to loan monies checked and found some serial numbers of equipment did not exist the whole house of cards came tumbling down, as it were.
Knowing that they were rumbled the main directors closed the company in 2021 and took to their heels.
The very well respected Kroll risk and financial advisors were appointed as Administrators and prepared reports for the creditors before carrying out the Liquidation.
Reassuringly the Serious Fraud Squad has and is pursuing the Arena Directors one of whom is still at large.
Others have been prosecuted already and their assets seized is my understanding of the situation but these are unlikely to be sufficient to eliminate the losses involved
To put the scale of this fraud in perspective, these are my rough figures based on reading some of the reported information, the group of Arena companies turned over a little more than £30 million in 2019 but their assets were listed at over double this amount after depreciation.
The total losses recorded were over £280 million and 55 finance organisations were the losers.
So what has that got to do with VSS Ltd I guess you might ask?
Well to us it was like “groundhog day” for we were asked to produce software and related processes to resolve a similar case years ago in order to mitigate the losses of finance providers.
The combination of our software and processes was employed by a company working on behalf of the losers in that case of the finance of fresh air. The company was very successful in sorting out what did and did not exist.
A number of well-known finance providers were involved and after the relatively successful deployment of our software and processes we walked away from that area on the basis that surely the financial sectors will have learned a hard lesson and by copying the way that our software worked such a thing would not happen again.
So I have come full circle in explaining why out of the blue we were contacted by an expert from the financial sector.
So far we have contacted the FRC and the ICAEW, and our MP, to see how we can help and this time we will persevere as such fraud is so preventable.