The Public Policy Research Cluster Distinguished Lecture: 'Annual Accounts: the Law and the Practice. An unsatisfactory mess for the responsible directors'

Research Cluster

Speaker:Edward Walker-Arnott, Herbert Smith
Date: Thursday 12 May 2016
Time: 4 pm
Location: The Bateman Lecture Theatre, Building: one followed by drinks and a buffet in La Touche

Further details


The thrust of this talk will be that the extraordinary development in the length, complexity and sophistication of accounting standards in the last 25 years has made it very difficult for directors to discharge their responsibility (a responsibility which applies to every company in the land – big or small) to produce annual accounts which give a true and fair view. Erudite accounting theory promoted by the standard-setters prevails: the business common sense of the ordinary director is ousted. Many sections of accounts are incomprehensible to the non-specialist and listed companies produce separate figures, alongside the standard-compliant results, to adjust what they describe as "distortions"! The talk will propose reforms.

Short Biography

Edward has been with Herbert Smith throughout his professional career and was senior partner 1992-2000. He sat on the Departmental Committee (the Cork Committee) inquiring into insolvency law 1977-82. The report resulted in the enactment of the Insolvency Act 1986. At the beginning of 1983, Edward was appointed as one of the first three nominated members of the Council of Lloyd's, sitting on the Council for six years. In June 1997 Edward was asked by the Arts Council of England to conduct an independent review of the Arts Council's relations with the Royal Opera House. He teaches at University College, London and became a visiting professor in 2000. From 1999 to 2009 he was a Governor and Vice-Chairman of the South Bank Centre. From 2000 to 2008 he was on the Board of the Royal National Theatre. From 2000 to 2010 he was a Governor of The Wellcome Trust. In 2002-2003 he was one of two outsiders on the five-person National Trust Governance Working Group which proposed radical changes to the constitution of the National Trust - now implemented. In 2003-2004 he sat on the small advisory group assisting Sir David Clementi in his review of the regulatory framework for legal services, Sir David's proposals subsequently being enacted in the Legal Services Act 2007. He currently acts as a non-executive director on the boards of a substantial privately owned company with significant property and commercial interests in the UK and Europe and a biotech start-up company spun out of the Sanger Centre, Cambridge. And he remains a trustee of a number of charities, large and small. In March 2013 he was made a QC (Hon). Edward has been on listed company boards and in recent years has sat on six separate Audit Committees, four of which he has chaired.

Date, location and timings

  • Thursday 12th May 2016 • Bateman Lecture Theatre, 1st Floor of Building:One, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4PU
  • 4pm-4.30pm: Lecture o 4.30-5pm: Q&A
  • 5-6pm: Networking drinks in La Touche on the ground floor of Building:One