Sean Tompkins says members whose names appeared on were kept in the dark over its RICS link

RICS chief executive Sean Tompkins has ruled out the possibility of member involvement in the conflict of interest the institution discovered within its dispute resolution service.

In a statement released to Building – which earlier today revealed that the RICS had informed central government of the situation – Tompkins said that the RICS’ regulatory arm had completed its investigation and had found that members whose names appeared on the promotional website for adjudicators and arbitrators,, had been in the dark about its links with RICS staff.

Following a complaint from an internal whistleblower, RICS last month announced that it had discovered “improper behaviour” within the dispute resolution service (DRS) connected to the setting up and operation of over the past three years.

This resulted in the dismissal of DRS head of quality Carol Goodall and the resignation of head of operations Wajid Khan, both of whom were based in Coventry.

Tompkins, who today wrote a lengthy email to RICS members about the developments, said: “We can confirm that RICS members who found themselves on did not do this with any knowledge that this was being run by RICS staff.

“Like many websites, this was seen by these RICS members as a bona fide marketing opportunity to promote their services. Additionally, there is no evidence of inappropriate appointments being made by the RICS dispute resolution service. Clearly, if any new evidence ever emerged, RICS’ regulatory arm would investigate.”

In his email to members, Tompkins also spoke of his regret over the incident and admits that the performance of the DRS has suffered because of the loss of two key staff.

A second investigation, commissioned by the RICS and carried out by law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, is still ongoing.


Tompkins email to RICS members in full:

Over the last few weeks, I have been dealing with an important matter in relation to our Dispute Resolution Service. While I have notified a number of key stakeholders, including our governing body of this, as of today, I am now in a position to be able to communicate more widely.

Following a new senior management appointment in this area of operation, we became aware of the possibility of inappropriate existing staff behaviour through a whistleblowing incident. Immediately, RICS took action to investigate this and we discovered the existence of a website,, which had been set up by our own staff over the last three years. Two senior members of staff are no longer employed by RICS. Subsequently, this website and all its attaching social media activity has been taken down by the site owners.

This inappropriate behaviour, coupled with the fact that circa 90 names of RICS members were found on this website, required us to gain answers to three important questions:

  • Are there any other areas of inappropriate staff behaviour in this area of operation?
  • Why were circa 90 RICS members’ details on this website?
  • Is there any evidence to suggest that the integrity of RICS’ appointments service has in any way been brought into question?

As one of the world’s most respected professional bodies, our approach to conducting investigations in this matter has been to be as transparent and open as possible in our dealings with members, RICS employees, the industry trade media and the relevant authorities.

Throughout the process of discovery, investigation and decision-making our first priority has been to act correctly, promptly and as openly as possible subject to appropriate safeguards over legal process and individual confidentiality. We have of course also been mindful at all times that we are a professional body that serves the public interest.

Our investigations
On staff matters, I appointed legal firm Field Fisher Waterhouse to carry out an independent and forensic desktop investigation into the extent and implications of employee conduct. Investigations are ongoing and I am clear that, if these uncover evidence of any illegal activities, those concerned will be reported to the appropriate authorities. If there is any evidence of “loss” to RICS, we will seek to recover this. I would like to make it clear that actions here are limited to a few individuals and I am grateful to all the other staff in this area for their commitment and support during a tough period.

Steven Gould, director of RICS’ arm’s length regulatory function, has overseen the member related investigations. Steven has just confirmed to me that our independent regulatory arm has now completed its investigation into questions two and three set out above. Firstly, they are assured that members who found themselves on did not do this with any knowledge that this was being run by staff for some form of gain while employed by RICS.

Like many websites, this was seen as a bona fide marketing opportunity to promote their services. Secondly and importantly, I have been informed that there is no evidence of inappropriate appointments being made by our Dispute Resolution Service.

Clearly, if any new evidence ever emerged, RICS’ regulatory arm would investigate.

Other stakeholders
At the point of discovering inappropriate behaviour by staff and the need to conduct wider investigations, as a matter of course we informed the UK Ministry of Justice, which carries central government responsibility for dispute resolution, and RICS’ sponsoring department, Communities and Local Government. We have now informed the two departments that there is no evidence of improper appointments being made.

You may have read about these events in the industry trade media. RICS itself released the news to the media; they did not find it out from another source. I have been active in regular briefings with the editors of the major trade publications in the UK.

RICS will issue this statement to the media today. We will be making no further comments in relation to the ongoing staff investigations until I feel confident that we are in a position to do so without jeopardising the integrity of ongoing investigations.

DRS service
I can tell you that I, my executive team and all remaining Dispute Resolution Service staff regret that these events have taken place. Clearly, with the loss of senior and experienced employees, this has had some impact on our appointment services levels and performance. One of my executive team colleagues, Mark Powell, is overseeing plans to ensure that the operation is meeting agreed service standards within the next three months.

Yours sincerely,

Sean Tompkins
RICS chief executive.