Companies House vs the ‘Dudeist Priest’: will the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 cut it?

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Chaos and confusion rained down on 190 companies in the UK as over 800 false loan documents were filed at Companies House. The false loan documents affected companies such as The Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Sainsbury’s, and Nero Coffee Roasting who were all informed of the situation by the banking trade association UK Finance.

Surely this must be a cyberattack of some kind – surprisingly no!

The hundreds of loan documents were filed by an unnamed individual in Northern Ireland who identifies as a ‘Dudeist Priest’. For those of you who are not up to date with their 1990s film knowledge, Dudeism is a religious movement inspired by the main character of ‘The Big Lebowski’, Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski. The Dudeist Priest filed Companies House documents that marked each company’s loans as being repaid or “fully satisfied” which caused utter turmoil as the securities were still outstanding.

The Dudeist Priest revealed in an interview with The Times that his reasoning for making the filings was that the targeted companies owed him money. The individual claimed to have no prior knowledge of Companies House or its systems and yet, he was still able to file hundreds of documents.

Companies House has since removed all of the related false filings and blocked the Dudeist Priest’s account that was linked to the transactions.

The tale of the Dudeist Priest seems almost too outrageous to be true, and yet some of the biggest companies in the UK were affected by this unnamed individual. It begs the question, how was he able to make so many filings through Companies House and cause so much disruption? Let’s not forget, this is not the first time Companies House has been under the spotlight in recent years. Just in October of last year it was revealed that 16 addresses all on the same road in Worksop had fallen victim to a bogus company director setting up fake firms.

Companies House is an executive agency of the British Government that maintains the records of all corporate entities registered in the UK. It is currently responsible for maintaining corporate information for over 5.4 million active companies. With that in mind, you really would hope for a stronger mechanism to be put in place to filter out bogus companies and false document filing.

All hope is not lost! We are moving in the right direction with the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 that achieved royal assent in October 2023. The legislation gives Companies House the authority to play a more significant role in fighting economic crime and they have since implemented the first set of changes under the legislation at the start of March 2024. The aim is that over time, the measures introduced under the authority of the 2023 Act will improve transparency and lead to more accurate and trustworthy information being published on their registers.

Will the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 cut it – only time will tell!

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