2023: 8,700 Records of Corporate Misconduct in the United Kingdom

December 19, 2023

Eight thousand-seven hundred corporate regulatory breaches published in 2023 made it onto the Violation Tracker UK database this year, here are the highlights…

Image of a magnifying glass over a colored map of the United Kingdom.
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Environment: £15.5 million in fines

In environmental enforcement, English regulator the Environment Agency handed out the highest fines this year. Over £14.5 million was received from companies in penalties; 78% of this total came from the water industry.

Natural Resources Wales issued only two fines in the first half of the year, the largest to house builder Taylor Wimpey for discharging silty water into the river Lwyd. Low fines by the agency made the news after we helped break the story that Natural Resources Wales had issued 200 warnings to Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water) in the last six years but only fined them twice.

Natural Resources Wales is not alone in its relatively small penalties. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency handed out 18 civil sanctions, with published fines to companies totalling just £4,500. The Environment Agency of Northern Ireland handed out five fines between January and September totalling £17,800, which was more than the total in court penalties in 2022.

Consumer Protection: £98 million

Source: Facebook | Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery

The water industry has not just been receiving fines for environmental offences, they have also faced enforcement action from regulators dealing with consumer-protection offences. This year, the Drinking Water Inspectorate concluded one prosecution and issued two cautions and three warning letters. In September, the Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT) concluded an assessment of performance targets and found the majority of water and wastewater companies had underperformed, requiring them to pay a combined total of £114 million back to customers.

In other consumer-protection news, the Gambling Commission has had one of the most productive years. We helped break the story that the agency was issuing record fines.

Similar figures were recovered by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) who issued total penalties of over £40 million to 12 energy companies.

The Food Standards Agency prosecuted two companies for animal welfare offences, an uncommon type of case for this agency, which usually prosecutes breaches of food safety legislation.

Employment: £36 million

Workers recovered over £25 million from unscrupulous bosses via employment tribunals in the first three quarters of the year.

In June, the Department for Business and Trade named 202 companies that had failed to pay minimum wage. Topping the list was WH Smith which failed to pay over £1 million in wages.

The pensions regulator posted 27 cases, with total penalties of £726,000.

Financial: £154 million

The Financial Conduct Authority had a relatively quiet year, with £72.7 million in penalties mostly from settlements.

In Accountancy, the Financial Reporting Council published eight cases, five of which concerned KPMG, which paid out total penalties of £30 million for accounting fraud or deficiencies. Two of its seven fines this year were issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which also issued fines in a further 43 cases.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) issued £67.5 million in penalties to companies for tax violations.

Competition: £829 million

The bulk of all fines issued for competition-related offences came from the biggest fine of 2023: £615m paid by Entain plc for failing to prevent bribery, issued by HMRC.

The Competition and Markets Authority issued total penalties of £192.5 million, £130 million of this was handed to pharmaceutical company Auden/Actavis UK, finding that the firm had abused its market position to increase the price of hydrocortisone tablets over a decade by over 10,000%.

Safety: £66 million in fines

The Health and Safety Executive and its equivalent in Northern Ireland fined companies over £45 million this year. Kier Group received the largest fine in January after workers hit overhead powerlines.

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The Office of Rail and Road published five fines, bringing in total penalties of £16 million.

The largest penalty for a care-quality violation was paid by Cygnet Healthcare, owned by U.S. giant Universal Health Services Inc. The Care Quality Commission prosecuted the firm for the avoidable death of a patient, for which it paid £1.5 million.

Across the UK, we have been adding to our care quality data. Agencies regulating care are more likely to issue notices than to prosecute. The Care Inspectorate Wales issued 520 Priority Action Notices to companies in 2023 and cancelled three services, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority issued 5 notices and cancelled two services and the Care Inspectorate issued 20 improvement notices to private health services.

For more information on any of the entries listed above, you can use the advanced search function on Violation Tracker UK. If you would like details on how I put together the figures, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch at [email protected]. And give us a follow on Twitter at VT__UK (note the two underscores). Wishing all our users a happy new year.