It has been claimed that goodwill is just an accounting trick. Whilst I agree that there are questions to be answered by the collapse of Carillion, I do not think that goodwill can be described an accounting trick. Goodwill is the difference between what you pay for a business and the fair value of its recognised assets and liabilities. If you didn't take it there you would be recognising an immediate loss on almost all acquisitions and that doesn't seem like the right answer.
The questions that we really need to answer is:
- should the goodwill have been impaired earlier? Were the cash flows that were used to support the carrying value of the goodwill appropriate? I imagine that this is something that the FRC will be looking closely at
- also, what about the viability statement that said "On the basis of both reasonably probable and more extreme downside scenarios, the Directors believe that they have a reasonable expectation that the Company will be able to continue in operation and meet its liabilities as they fall due over the three-year period of their assessment."
The real questions to me, which I am sure the FRC will ask, is how the directors made these assessments which were made in February and March 2017.
Carillion’s largest asset was “goodwill”, a £1.5 billion intangible that is little more than an accounting trick.