7 February 2018
Simon joined Haberman Ilett in 2014 having worked in the forensic accountancy practice of a big four firm for five years. He has provided accounting and quantum advice in relation to disputes in a number of commercial sectors, such as defence, construction and financial services. He has worked on disputes that have been resolved through mediation, expert determination, arbitration and litigation. In this article, we find out more from Simon about his foray into the pea farming industry and what he learnt from being involved in investigating the phone hacking scandal.
What did you do before you became an accountant?
I spent a year working as a statistician at the UK research and development site of a multinational consumer goods company. My role involved analysing the results of clinical trials, experiments and surveys relating to the company’s products to determine whether any statistically significant findings had been made.
The projects related to everything from developing new ice cream flavours to increasing the size of peas by improving farming practices. Sadly, I wasn’t able to participate in any ice cream tasting, but I did get to visit a pea processing plant near Hull. Every cloud…
Having settled on accountancy, why did you choose to specialise in disputes?
I trained in one of the Big Four’s audit and forensic practices, qualifying as a chartered accountant in 2011. I spent a further three years within their forensic practice, working on a variety of investigations, commercial disputes and anti-money laundering/regulatory projects. I joined Haberman Ilett LLP in early 2014 to focus on commercial disputes.
It’s the variety and unpredictable nature of commercial dispute work that makes my job really interesting. While the end product is usually the quantification of damages, the subject matter, region and industry are rarely the same. In my career I’ve worked on cases involving accounting practices in Saudi Arabia, an oil storage terminal in Turkey, the UK solar panel industry, construction in Dubai and the UK aviation industry (to name a few).
What was your most memorable case?
One memorable case that I was involved in related to allegations of phone hacking at a national newspaper. I was part of a team that performed a detailed review of documents archived by journalists (dating back some 20 years) to search for evidence of phone hacking. Not only was it fascinating to see the source material for some memorable high-profile news stories, but the work also gave me an insight into the methodical way reporters gather and use evidence to research and build a story.
In some ways, this methodical process is similar to the way we, as forensic accountants, approach our work. We meticulously review and analyse factual information to get to the root of the issue, before drawing any conclusions. Our work typically involves financial information (e.g. when quantifying lost profits, valuing a business or providing an opinion on whether a warranty has been breached), but there are occasions, like the phone hacking matter, when we forensically review non-financial information.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a keen rock climber! While I have to make do with indoor climbing walls during the week, climbing allows me to escape the city at weekends and enjoy the beautiful British countryside.