Peers and clients say:
"Gervase is an internationally recognised expert"
"His evidence carries real significance with the tribunal"
"Very experienced, efficient and capable of meeting challenging deadlines"
Gervase is a forensic accountant in BDO UK’s London office and is involved in most of their large investigations. He was one of the two inspectors on the DBIS investigation into MG Rover and has been appointed on a number of Section 166 financial services investigations, including into building societies arising out of the financial crisis. Gervase is a member of BDO’s EMEA Forensic Center of Excellence and is a member of BDO’s Global Forensic Leadership Group.
Describe your career to date.
I started as a trainee accountant and worked on mainly owner-managed businesses in a variety of sectors, but with a heavy focus on property. I was lucky enough to work on an investigation for a quoted client which had bought another listed company in a hostile takeover bid. The client was Caparo and within a couple of days had discovered loads of credit notes for the pre year-end sales of hi-fi equipment racks. This turned into the leading case on audit liability. I then qualified and four years later became an audit partner although in those days that encompassed a lot of tax, corporate finance and everything else including valuation and more investigations. I worked on a big civil matter – a cold call – and then on the Maxwell prosecutions. When that ended I started working at the United Nations Compensation Commission on damages claims arising out of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. After five years of that I worked on a number of large commercial claims including MAN v ERF – the truck case – and shortly after that went to court spent four years as the DTI inspector on MG Rover. In the decade since Rover, I have built up a speciality in arbitration work particularly in energy and oil and gas disputes and in BIT disputes. Along the way I went on to BDO’s board where I have been head of risk and reputation for many years, handling the firms claims and regulatory inquiries.
Practitioners have recorded an increased level of coordination between companies’ regulators and authorities. How is this affecting your practice?
I think it’s fair to say that regulatory action is one of the growth areas in the UK. We saw this after the global financial crisis, although it did tail off. The current one looks like a step change.
Has your experience in acting as an arbitrator assisted you in a role as a forensic accounting expert?
Sitting as an arbitrator does make you more aware of how evidence is received. It also teaches you that tribunals are often not that interested in the wranglings between opposing counsel, and that’s a reminder of why, as an expert, one needs to remain detached from a lot of these debates. I unfortunately see lawyers treat each other with little respect:it’s not edifying, and I have also seen experts get sucked in.
In your opinion, to what extent do you think DCF models will lead to a more efficient arbitral process?
On the basis that DCF is the most appropriate valuation method – which is not always the case – it can do as long as you have a model capable of flexing through taking on board each side’s key commercial assumptions. We still occasionally see hard-coded models, which are of no use to anyone, although it’s some time since I received a model in pdf form only. The point about commercial assumptions is key because tribunals need to know what the main drivers of value are in a damages claim. Having two competing models is also potentially confusing – really a properly designed model should be acceptable to both sides
As head of risk and reputation at BDO, what are your main priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?
Like my opposite numbers in the other large accounting firms, it’s first and foremost about reacting to the regulatory challenge, particularly with the onset of ISQM1.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I want to ensure that my succession on BDO’s leadership team works. Other than that, I am happy to carry on working in commercial and BIT arbitrations.