Effects of Divorce Decision

Article excerpt

Forensic accountants are preparing to field a surge of telephone calls from women divorcing wealthy businessmen.

It follows last week's Appeal Court decision to award Shan Lambert half her media tycoon husband's pounds 20.2 million fortune.

'This earth-shattering ruling will send shivers up the spines of businessmen and businesswomen - the reverse will apply - because it allows courts to value the entire business assets of one partner and say to the other: '50/50 it's yours',' said Gary Moreton, a partner at accountants Baker Tilly's Birmingham office.

'It means accountants are going to have to ensure a full and proper evaluation of all business interests are given in divorce proceedings. Successful business people will now be looking for smart new ways to hide assets in case of any future marital split.

'There are also social and lifestyle ramifications. At a time when the Government is trying to persuade couples from divorcing, this decision could see ambitious men and women deciding never to get married, and businessmen employing a pounds 30,000 a year housekeeper instead of having a wife!'

The services of forensic accountants have been called on increasingly in recent years to discover any action that husbands might have taken to depress the value of their businesses and to decide if the past years' company accounts reveal their true profit. Mr Moreton reveals previous tricks used to hide or undervalue business assets in the event of divorce include setting up trusts in nominee company names; stashing assets abroad; setting up separate companies and hiving off assets into them; selling companies to trusted associates to hold them in keeping and thus undervalue them; putting personal expenditure through their companies to deflate the profits; and converting long-term loans into preference shares so they get the value on sale instead of ordinary shareholders. …