The fourth and final director of a company that conned HR departments out of more than £4m in unwanted products has been disqualified following a DTI clampdown closed down the firm.
Ronald Alexander Porter was a director of the infamous Edinburgh telesales company, Berger & Co plc, whose dubious practices were brought to the attention of the HR community by Personnel Today (5 August, 2003).
Our special investigation into the company’s activities uncovered large numbers of HR staff who were concerned and confused by threats of legal action over non-payment for HR information they did not want.
Berger & Co cold-called businesses offering to send them reports giving advice and analysis on management and HR issues. The reports were offered on a ’21 day free review’, but Berger did not always make clear to firms that they would be charged between £295 and £395 if the reports were not returned within the 21 days.
At its busiest, Berger sent out around 1,200 reports a week, which Personnel Today readers described as “bad quality” and “rubbish”.
Demands for payment were often followed by threats of litigation, usually in a county court far away from where the business was based. Around 40% of companies who were invoiced actually paid up, taking Berger’s annual turnover to more than £1m.
Porter, Berger’s fourth and final director, has given an undertaking that he will not be a director for five years, taking the total period of disqualifications of the four directors of Berger to 30 years.
Cherrill West, HR manager at Siemens Hearing Instruments, who took part in Personnel Today’s expos to warn other people of the dangers of the scam, welcomed the news of the final disqualification.
“It’s good riddance to bad rubbish,” she said. “A lot of people said they had been conned and we are all pleased with this result.”
In November 2004, the managing director of Berger, Filip Peter Lademacher, was disqualified from acting as a director for 13 years and two other directors, Ian Armstrong and David Stirrat, previously gave disqualification undertakings of six years each.