PE transparency watchdog names chairman

The former head of E&Y will spearhead efforts to ensure private equity managers are following transparency standards set by the UK Walker Guidelines.

The body responsible for monitoring private equity firms’ compliance with the Walker Guidelines appointed Nick Land as chairman. He replaces Sir Michael Rake, who served as chairman of the Guidelines Monitoring Group since its inception in March 2008.

The voluntary guidelines ask UK private equity firms and their larger portfolio companies to provide the same level of disclosures that UK publicly-listed companies are required to follow.

Land is best known for his work with Big Four accounting firm Ernst & Young. He became an audit partner at the firm in 1978 and held a number of management appointments before becoming managing partner in 1992. He was appointed Chairman and joined the Global Executive Board of Ernst & Young Global in 1995.

Land is also a non-executive director on the boards of the Financial Reporting Council, Vodafone Group, Alliance Boots, BBA Aviation and the Ashmore Group.

His appointment comes at a time when the UK private equity industry has come under criticism from the GMG. In March, the body said it was unhappy about the amount of firms and portfolio companies that were failing to meet the guidelines’ required standards. The GMG reviewed 15 portfolio companies to discover that 11 were meeting the standards – a lower proportion than in previous years.

Some firms are struggling to meet the guidelines after thresholds were lowered last year to bring more firms within their scope. For example companies acquired for £350 million ($530 million; €405 million), down from £500 million, became subject to the guidelines.

Casting a wider net resulted in lesser quality disclosure reports, said one source familiar with the matter at the time. He added it was “obvious the level of disclosure is not as good as some of those who have been doing it for four years”.

“The [Guidelines Monitoring Group] must continue to develop the Walker Guidelines so they remain relevant in line with changing reporting requirements and promote quality, focused and informative disclosure,” Land said in a statement.

The GMG also appointed Glyn Parry as an independent member of the group, replacing Alan Thomson the group finance director of Smith’s Group, who left in July. Parry is the Director of Group Financial Control at BT Group with executive responsibility for the group’s financial reporting obligations as a FTSE 30 UK listed company with a dual US listing.