The last ShareSoc Informer Newsletter contained an article on the ease with which one can look up the past history of company directors in the new free service provided by Companies House. It focussed on the past appointments of one of the directors of Globo, a company now in administration of course. No sooner had that article been written than Companies House proposed to change their record retention which would make this kind of research impossible.
Presently the Companies House record shows all the appointments in the last 20 years including those in dissolved companies. This is exceedingly useful because knowing the backgrounds of the directors of any company is key to making sound investment decisions. The ability to know who the directors are, and that they are trustworthy, are two of the principles behind much of Company Law.
For example would it have been obvious to the media that Dominic Chappell, the purchaser of BHS for £1, had a history of past business failures – companies dissolved between 1994 and 2005? Without that ability to research the past of directors of limited companies, that information might never have come to light. An article in Private Eye edition 1425 gives many other examples of how information from Companies House was used to reveal the past activities of directors to their disadvantage or embarrassment. Newspaper reporters, indeed this writer, uses the Companies House records as an important research tool.
But Companies House is proposing to change from the current retention period of 20 years for dissolved companies to 6 years which would practically defeat a lot of this kind of research.
It seems that following an EU Court of Justice decision concerning the “right to be forgotten” based on a case against Google, Companies House are receiving regular requests to remove information. But the legal decision was quite limited in scope and it is surely only those who wish to conceal their past activities who might complain. It would be wrong to remove such information when past directorships are a matter of public record and it is important to avoid the loss of key facts.
I am writing to Companies House to express the objections of ShareSoc to the proposed changes, but you may care to do the same.