There are many iniquities in UK company law. Non-executive directors have been the butt of many a good joke, particularly since the publication of the Cadbury report in 1992 that listed their responsibilities.
The proliferation of non-executive directors heading up committees that determine directors' salaries was the biggest joke of the 90s - most large company non-executive directors are frequently also executive directors of their own firms and, in turn, sit at a virtual merry-go-round of each others' remuneration committees.
You would forgive some of these directors for their failings when looking after the rights of minority shareholders and the seeming inability to supervise senior management teams, if they all acted like the non-executives of BP in 1992. If you remember, they were collectively responsible for the removal of the chairman and chief executive because of their failings.
But the get-rich-quick and devil-may-care attitudes of the 80s are still reverberating in 90s boardrooms.
The roll call of companies that have gone bust this year started with BasCrown and has gone on to include Electro-Wide and many more. The channel, and particularly distributors, are being pummelled with collapses which threaten to change the current approach of simple caution on bad debt into a financial provision which could become structural in forward planning.
Dozens of resellers have also fallen foul of incompetent or, in some cases, fraudulent directors who, taking advantage of the UK's lax company law, set up half-baked company structures, milk money out of gullible banks and venture marketeers, and then go bust.
There are just too many of them happening lately to make it more than just a coincidence.
No other country in Europe would allow this. After one collapse, any and all directors would be subject to a term in jail. A second infringement would lead to an even longer term.
In the US, the consequences would be so Draconian that only the Mafia would even contemplate it. The channel is now a far more dangerous place to do business than it was even a year ago.
As PC Dealer reported last week, AMD has alerted the UK channel to a huge wave of remarked processors, and in the Far East, the battered economy has given rise to gangs of criminals producing fake motherboards.
It wouldn't surprise me to find out that a UK distributor has started its own private police force. And the practices of some resellers go way beyond simply prising money from distributors' reluctant jaws.
The latest dodge is factoring money against invoices to raise enough capital to buy another company. This may not be illegal, but it is certainly not good practice, and when the parent company is in poor health - and subsequently goes bust - it is plainly fraudulent.
Any company director who flagrantly breaches the legal constraint of due diligence to such an extent should be brought to book immediately. But many of these characters have already opened up new companies by the time the creditors' meeting takes place.
It is simply not enough to leave it up to companies' creditors to make sure such people are prevented from becoming directors of new companies - the law itself must be tightened. That way we can ensure they are put where they can easily be found - behind bars.
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