A LONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY
THE REBEL ALLIANCE SECURED A FAMOUS VICTORY
BLASTING THE DEATH STAR OUT OF THE SKY
WITH MOMENTS TO SPARE
BUT THEIR ACTIONS CAME AT A PRICE...
EMPIRE CONTRACTS CONTAIN A NON-PAYMENT CLAUSE
ALLOWING PAYMENT TO BE WITHHELD
IN THE EVENT OF REBEL ACTION
IT IS NO SURPRISE THAT
DARTH VADER'S FORMER HOME
CAME TO BE KNOWN AS THE DEBT STAR
A publicly accessible database of company directorships could soon become a reality, following the conclusion of a consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The proposals outline plans for a central registry of company beneficial ownership information - including details of trustees, where relevant, and of individuals with ownership of more than 25% of the shares in a company, or the equivalent proportion of its voting rights.
Recently we featured an article on an individual called Phillip Buffett and his "Uber Intelligence" group of companies. This individual came to our attention when we were tasked by two freelancers to pursue unpaid invoices totalling over £10k.
It soon became apparent to us that the individual in question was a known fraudster, with a history of criminality and a penchant for defrauding individuals, businesses and even professional athletes. He was also already serving a seven year ban as a director for his previous frauds.
Many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK are effectively being forced to loan money to large firms interest-free, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.
In one of a pair of landmark reports issued since the beginning of the year, the FSB warns that late payments and unreasonable renegotiation of payment terms is taking money out of the hands of SMEs, and allowing it to languish for longer in the accounts of the nation's largest corporations.
It's good to know that, when a dodgy dealer makes off with client money and there's no record of where it's gone, they will face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
New figures from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills show that the BIS Criminal Enforcement Team achieved 198 successful prosecutions in the 2012-13 financial year.
The Professional Contractors Group have called for an anonymous hotline to be created, allowing small business owners to 'name and shame' large companies that pay late or otherwise try to use their 'brand power' to manipulate payment terms.
While the PCG are calling it a 'witness protection' hotline, we prefer to call it Slimeshoppers, as it doesn't get much lower than a big business trying to use their size as an excuse to withhold payment to small suppliers.
Late payment of invoices is now - for the first time in recent years - the single greatest risk to creditors, even outranking debtor insolvency in a report from credit risk insurer Coface UK.
According to the insurer, 60% of the claims it received in the first nine months of 2013 arose due to "a customer's protracted default" - that is, either late or non-payment.
The world of credit control brings to mind the infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote:
"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know we don't know."
Admittedly he was talking about weapons of mass destruction, but the same applies to your customers' financial situations, and effective credit control eliminates as much of the 'unknown' as possible, and maximises the 'known knowns'.
Slow payments represent a substantial risk to small and medium-sized businesses, who must often meet the cost of materials and labour for a month or more while waiting for customers to settle invoices.
But SMB cash flows were recently given what seemed to be a much-needed shot in the arm, in the form of the Prompt Payment Code - a commitment from big firms to pay their invoices as soon as reasonably possible, rather than withholding important funds from their SMB suppliers.
The Experian Late Payment Index published on Monday shows again that the bigger a company is, the later it is likely to pay its suppliers, making for a timely reminder of the true nature of 'brand power' and its potential negative impact on small companies' cash flow.
In the third quarter of 2013, the smallest firms, with just one or two employees, paid an average of 20.62 days beyond agreed terms on overdue invoices - the smallest delay among UK companies of all sizes, and a slight improvement from 20.78 days in the previous quarter.
It seems only fitting that Halloween week should be the moment when Blockbuster Video - one of the UK's biggest zombie businesses - reveals that, for the second time in ten months, it is lurching back into the corporate graveyard.
Zombie businesses are those that are only just surviving, but would be unlikely or unable to continue to do so if there were any kind of substantial shock to their ongoing operations.
That pretty much sums up Blockbuster's situation, as current owners Gordon Brothers Europe have been unable to bring the company into the 21st century; former US parent company Dish still own the digital rights to the brand, and competitors like LoveFilm, Netflix and Sky have already cornered the British market for streaming films.
The Centre for Retail Research has published its latest Who's Gone Bust? report, giving an insight into how retail companies have been affected by five years of economic turbulence.
Worryingly for all involved in the sector, it appears that conditions are getting worse; 2012 saw 54 companies fail, matching the previous highest total set in 2008, and with 39 brands failing by the end of August alone, 2013 is on track to be even worse.
A report from Exact, a provider of business and finance software, tallies up the costs of non-payment to UK SMEs, with some fairly alarming figures for individual examples of unpaid invoices.
A recently published Late Payments Report makes 11 recommendations that MPs believe could help small businesses to receive what they are owed more promptly from their big-business customers.
MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth Debbie Abrahams convened and chaired a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the issue of prompt payment for small businesses, which heard evidence from several large FTSE companies, as well as affected SMEs.