Competition and Markets Authority releases 174-page report into bid-rigging scandal

Part of a notebook found on the hard drive of a demolition contractor helped the Competition and Markets Authority piece together evidence of so-called ‘compensation payments’ made between firms in its years-long probe into bid-rigging in the sector.

Details of these payments, including how one director agreed to a £500,000 payment in return for his firm taking a “back seat” bidding a job, have already started to be made public by the CMA but information on how it was able to put together a case against firms and individuals making and receiving the payments has only now emerged.

The CMA yesterday released its 174-page report into bid-rigging in the sector which also included compensation payments – defined by the CMA as a process where “the designated ‘losers’ of the contracts were set to be compensated by the winner”.


The CMA’s report into bid-rigging in the demolition sector runs to 174 pages

It said that among “the evidence relied upon are two documents that the CMA finds to be records of compensation payment arrangements: (a) an extract from a notebook belonging to [Director A] (Cantillon) found on [Director A]’s (Scudder) hard drive, which sets out a list of projects under the heading ‘Scudder’, and notes certain monies ‘owed’.

“In interview, [Director A] (Cantillon) said that the handwriting on this document was his, that [Director A] (Scudder) ‘might have taken a picture’ of it, and that certain entries related to compensation payments; [and] (b) an extract from a notebook belonging to [Employee] (Scudder), which sets out a list of projects, with monetary figures and the names of contractors next to them.

“[Employee] (Scudder) explained: ‘The document lists payments owed to or owed by Scudder on various projects. It is, for want of a better word, a ‘scorecard’ or a ‘slate’ of agreements in relation to anti-competitive behaviour and compensation that may have been made for that behaviour…If the amounts owed changed due to amounts being paid or other amounts became owed, it would just be added to or subtracted from the numbers…I believe the left-hand page is what Scudder owed and the right-hand page is what Scudder was owed by others’.”

Scudder, now discontinued by parent Careys, is one of five firms found guilty of making and receiving compensation payments. The others are Cantillon, Erith, McGee and Brown and Mason.

Cantillon founder Michael Cantillon, who stepped down as chairman of the business in July 2020 after it was bought by Morrisroe and has been banned from being a director following his role in the scandal, has admitted he raised nine invoices totalling £175,000 to be paid by Scudder.

Another banned director David Darsey, a former managing director of Erith, was involved in three cases of compensation payments including one amount of £500,000 under which Erith agreed to be paid by McGee for “taking a back seat” on bidding the Shell Building contract over summer 2013 that was eventually won by McGee for £21m.

And details of £700,000 in compensation payments made to Brown and Mason, including a £600,000 payment made by McGee on the Shell scheme, have also been made public which has resulted in Nicholas Brown, currently managing director of the Brown and Mason Group, being banned as a director for seven years from next month.

All five firms who made or received compensation payments were also found guilty of bid-rigging along with Keltbray, John F Hunt, DSM, Clifford Devlin and Squibb.

Keltbray, fined £16m, and Squibb, hit with a £2m penalty, are both appealing the level of their fines. The largest penalty, £17.6m, has been handed to Erith. Firms had until 24 May to settle up.