Out-Law News

‘CV fraud’ case highlights key checking role for HR

Andrew Herring tells HRNews about the importance of due diligence in recruitment, especially for senior appointments


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  • Transcript

    A  fraudster with a fake CV has been stripped of his earnings after lying about qualifications. The ruling by the Supreme Court highlights the importance of conducting thorough due diligence in the recruitment process. We’ll consider that.

    The case has been widely covered in the press.  Jon Andrewes was appointed chief executive at a hospice in Somerset in 2004 after making false or dishonestly inflated and misleading statements about his educational qualifications and experience in his job application. He went on to apply successfully for other paid roles at two NHS trusts on the basis of more lies, including that he had obtained a doctorate from Plymouth University. His employment was ended in 2015 when the truth about his qualifications came to light. The court ordered the confiscation of nearly £100,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. 

    Sue Gilchrist covers the case in her article for Outlaw. She says as well as this case being an interesting case about the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act, it also highlights the importance of document checks in recruitment. She says: ‘We hear about forged degree certificates and similar being available to order online, so training for HR teams on what these documents should look like, and at least spot checks with the awarding academic institutions, will help to reduce the risks around a made-up CV’ 

    So, let’s hear more on the role of HR and the level of due diligence required. Andrew Herring is a litigator who specialises in fraud-related investigations and earlier he joined me by phone from Birmingham to discuss the case:

    Andrew Herring: “So, for HR professionals I think it's an appreciation that you are on the front line of protecting your organisation from being potentially a victim of fraud. If an individual is willing to falsify their qualifications in order to be employed by your organisation, what else are they willing to do? So I think it’s about making sure, right from your very first interaction with an individual, that you are treating them in a proper way, and making sure that you are doing the due diligence on who you're employing, I think there's a great deal of risk around receiving a CV and just taking what you see as read and the more senior the person that you're employing, and the more risky environment that they're going to be working in, the more due diligence checking you need to do and that isn't just making sure that the references that they've put down check out, it's actually going further than that and ensuring that the qualifications that they’ve put down are accurate.”

    Joe Glavina: “Of course, very often firms use a recruitment agency so, I guess, you need to check they’re conducting the checks properly?”

    Andrew Herring: “Yes, I think one of the key messages from this case before the Supreme Court is don't just rely on what the recruitment agencies are saying. Clearly there's a risk profile at the lower end of the pay scale, employees, it's not going to be proportionate to do really thorough due diligence on everything that you see there and it’s probably not as important but, in this particular case, you are dealing with someone who was employed as a chief executive of a hospice in a healthcare environment and in that situation I think it is appropriate that people do a really thorough level of due diligence and I think sometimes you sort of just assume the recruitment agent has done the job properly for you and you can just move straight to the interview stage and seeing whether you think this is an appropriate person to have the job, but it's important that you take every step in turn when you're doing recruitment of senior people into an organisation, particularly in a healthcare setting where, if someone had if this individual had made a mistake, even in a management role as opposed to a clinical role, that could have had really severe consequences because you've recruited someone who isn't properly qualified to do that role. Now, as it happened, in this case, he did actually seem to provide the services properly and the whole point of the case was trying to work out what level of confiscation, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the state was able to recover from him and because he provided the services properly during his tenure, they actually discounted the value of the confiscation order by the value of the services rendered during his employment. Had he been doing criminal activity during his employment, then that wouldn't have been the case - I think they could have confiscated all of his net earnings over the period that he'd been employed. So these are the main risks for employers in these situations. So, number one, if the person is willing to falsify their qualifications, what else might they be willing to do dishonestly once you've employed them? Number two, what sort of risk does this expose you to as an organisation if the person has falsified their qualifications and they make a mistake that has some catastrophic consequence for the organisation?”

    That Out-Law article by Sue Gilchrist explains in more detail how the court arrived at roughly £100,000 for the confiscation order if you are interested in that. That’s ‘CV fraud case highlights need for due diligence in recruitment’ and we have put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.

    - Link to Out-Law article: ‘CV fraud case highlights need for due diligence in recruitment’

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