CV fraud

Most people would think that 'embellishing' their CV is unlikely to lead them to the highest court in England and Wales, the Supreme Court. However, this is exactly what happened to the CEO of a hospice in a recent case.

Most job advertisements specify skills and qualifications which are 'desirable' and/or 'essential'. The purpose of this is obviously to assist with the recruitment process and to ensure that fair employment procedures are applied. In September 2004, the post of CEO at a hospice was advertised and as regards qualifications, a first degree was specified as 'essential' and an MBA as 'desirable'.

The successful applicant claimed to have a first degree, an MPhil from Bristol University, an MBA from Edinburgh University and be studying for a PhD. He also claimed to have an Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting. None of this was true. His employment history was also similarly fanciful. As the court summarised, 'overall, therefore, his representations as to the essential requirements of management experience were either false or inflated'.

In signing the application form for the role, the applicant was confirming that the information supplied was correct, he was offered and accepted the CEO role at an initial salary of £75,000. He was in post from December 2004 to March 2015 when his employment was terminated after the truth started to emerge.

The above scenario would appear to raise a significant number of employment-related issues. Criminal proceedings were brought against the individual including obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception and two counts of fraud and, as the man pleaded guilty, a sentence of two years imprisonment was imposed.

The prosecution pursued confiscation proceedings. If a confiscation order is awarded, it is a route to the civil recovery of assets generated through criminal activity. The confiscation proceedings reached the Supreme Court which concluded that, interestingly, there was some value attached to the services provided by the individual for the significant period during which he was employed, accordingly it would not be proportionate to recover his total net earnings from 2004 to 2015. However, the Court was prepared to make an order essentially recovering the difference between what he had been paid and the lower paid job which he would have secured had he been truthful on his CV.

The case is a salutary reminder for employers to ensure that they carry out appropriate due diligence on applicants for employment. Employers should consider taking specialist legal advice prior to embarking on a recruitment process to ensure that due diligence checks are properly considered. For example, qualifications should be checked and references should be obtained. Crucially, employers should ensure that their employment contracts have been reviewed to include a provision permitting them to suspend an employee if any irregularities are discovered, pending a formal disciplinary process.

To discuss this or any other employment matter, contact us.

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