Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market

BHETA issues injunction over confidential emails

Published: 9 July 2009
The debate on our sister site HousewaresLive.net regarding the proposed merger between BHETA and the BJGF continues to rage following news that the association has been granted a restraining injunction against member Charles Harrison to stop him from publishing confidential BHETA material that has come into his possession.
However, Harrison says he will defend the claim - despite being warned that the case will run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Harrison, who has instigated a rebellion against the British Home Enhancement Trade Association's proposed merger with the British Jewellery, Giftware and Finishing Federation, yesterday received a letter from the association's solicitors warning him not to reveal the content of three private emails that have passed between the association's directors.

The letter said that should Harrison "choose to publish them you will be in breach of the confidentiality obligation that you now owe to BHETA. If you breach that obligation I am instructed that BHETA will take action against you by way of injunction."

Yesterday, Harrison told HousewaresLive.net: "I will be advising BHETA that I will not publish the documents for 24 hours to afford it the opportunity to obtain the restraining injunction."

Now, BHETA has gone ahead with its threat in an attempt to prevent Harrison from divulging the information in the confidential messages.

Today, Harrison told HousewaresLive.net that BHETA's solicitors had advised him of "significant costs" being incurred by BHETA in making its application and in pursuing its claim against him.

He said the solicitors had also warned that the costs would run into tens of thousands should he defend the claim - costs that BHETA would ultimately seek to recover from him.

However, Harrison remained defiant, saying: "I confirm that I will defend the claim."

No one at BHETA was available to comment.

The news has prompted a huge amount of industry response and comment. Below are the comments from HousewaresLive.net. But what do the DIY members think? Have your say and comment below.

Injunction!
By Martin Russell - MD Amefa

I think in todays market when retail is suffering one of its worst recessions that it is appauling that a trade Association is spending its time fighting the people it is supposed to support, spending money in todays market should always be a considered approach and those elected or paid to run such Associations should either be more open to the members who are in essence the people they report to...
I for one after sitting back and watching the appaulling behavour develop would now be looking for changes within the Association and by that I mean its leaders!

Harrison Defiant
By Roger Morgan-Grenville
The injunction that BHETA has secured on Charles Harrison has simply had the effect of turning a story of very marginal interest to most of us into one of increasing concern. If there is nothing to hide, then why try to hide it?

Injunction
By David Slater
One can only speculate just how damning the contents of the blocked communication must be to warrant taking such extreme measures.

Harrison Defiant
By Mark Boddy MD The Housewares Group
I would trust Charles harrison over the board of BHETA wouldnt you ?

Harrison Defiant
By John Birch ISV Solutions Ltd
Is serving an injunction on Charles Harrison an efficiant use of BHETA s funds ? What do the board have to hide ?

EGM
By Simon Silverwood
How have we come to this?

Can it really be in the interests of members for our Association to be incurring "substantial legal costs" in order to prevent a fellow member from circulating information relating to this fiasco?
One of the central objections to the merger has been the dearth of information available to ordinary members. What is happening now appears to be compounding that criticism; In my name, and yours, our Association is wilfully spending money in an attempt to gag a fellow member.

I ll be quite clear: my initial involvement in this matter was due to the surprise announcement of Pam Plant s resignation. I was dismayed at the prospect of losing access to Pam s experience, knowledge and integrity. The mildly interesting tremors that began to radiate from within BHETA were of little interest to me. BHETA is a Trade Association. Its significance to my business is frankly minimal. Its position in my list of daily priorities? Low. But, and it s a big but, I do care about people and I do care about what is being said and done in my name.

Criticism, initiated by Charles Harrison, of the concept and execution of the proposed merger has brought various skeletons out of the cupboard. In the past few weeks we have received conflicting reports from BHETA Directors and a significant alteration to the resolution being proposed at the EGM. The same EGM which, as we all know, the Board fought hard to avoid. I regret to say that the trickle of information that has finally begun to emerge has been notable for the reluctant circumstances of its release. And now, as each week passes, it seems that BHETA feels compelled to bring-out ever bigger sledgehammers with which to attack Charles Harrison and his concerns. This latest move to gag him with a court injunction and at the same time to suggest to members that HE is responsible for subsequent delays and costs, is frankly pathetic.

It may be that a merger with BJGF would benefit members, but how can an ordinary member make a considered judgement without access to all the facts? In today s post, I received 16 pages of bumph from BHETA, clearly designed to persuade members that the Board s new, watered-down resolution represents an entirely reasonable proposal. And so it seems. But what interests me, what nibbles away at the back of my head, is:

1/ There are clearly details that the Directors don t want me to know, and therefore:
2/ The same Directors want members to vote without having had the benefit of a fully informed debate.

If you take away just one thought from this overlong diatribe, may it be this: PLEASE don t just send-in a proxy vote. If you can possibly spare the time, come along on 23rd July with an open mind and listen to both sides of the argument before you make a decision.
I shall.

SUPPORT FOR CHARLES HARRISON
By ALAN COSBY/CHAIRMAN/KENTBRUSHES
SOMETHING IS DEFINITELY ADRIFT WITH THE PROPOSED MERGER OF BHETA WITH THE BJGF IF THE DIRECTORS HAVE CAUSE TO WASTE ASSOCIATION MONEY IN TAKING OUT AN INJUNCTION? DO THE BRUSH, DIY AND HOUSEWARES MEMBERS REALIZE THAT IT IS GOING TO COST IN EXCESS OF 1.7 MILLION TO JOIN THE BJGF WHICH ACCOUNTS FOR APPROXIMATELY 2/3RDS OF THE BHETA'S ASSETS! I WOULD URGE ALL MEMBERS OF BHETA TO QUESTION THE REAL MOTIVE OF THE DIRECTORS TRYING TO PUSH THROUGH THE EGM PROXY ON THE 23RD JULY TO JOIN THE BJGF? I FOR ONE WILL VOTE AGAINST THE MOTION AS THE WHOLE CASE PUT FORWARD BY CHARLES HARRISON MAKES SENSE. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE HARRISON CASE GET A COPY FROM INFO@CATENT.CO.UK PEOPLE WHO HIDE BEHIND INJUNCTIONS HAVE GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE, AND WHAT RIGHT HAVE THE DIRECTORS GOT TO WASTE THE ASSOCIATIONS FUNDS ON THIS INJUNCTION, AND POSSIBLE FUTURE DEFENSE? BULLYBOY TACTICS THREATENING THE ONGOING COSTS COULD RISE TO TENS OF THOUSANDS DOES NOTHING TO ENDORSE MY FEELINGS TOWARDS THE DIRECTORS OF BHETA;THE WHOLE ISSUE IS HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS AND QUESTIONS NEED TO BE ASKED TO PREVENT A MERGER.

BHETA
By Neville Singer
How sad to see our trade association take such an action against one of its own members! (The injunction against Charles Harrison)

Whether right or wrong, the question that must be answered now to everyone's satisfaction is what is in the mysterious e-mails that is so sensitive that BHETA feel it should be suppressed?

A secondary question also occurs to me:
Were the whole board of BHETA consulted on this injunction and were they in total agreement?

Harrison defiant
By richard gilbert
I read somewhere that BHETA acknowledged a lack of effective communucation to members regarding the proposed merger with BJGF.
Have lessons really been learned? In which case, if true, what kind of effective message does the serving of an injuction on Charles Harrison give to members in advance of the EGM on July 23rd and what benefit can there possibly be to their members of what must be a very costly undertaking?

Comments

Published prior to March 2014
By Neville Singer
I read with interest Max Crosby-Browne's comment this morning. I am a little confused on a small point of law, of which I must admit I have no knowledge.

If Charles Harrison is forbidden from discussing the mysterious e-mails, how is that a board member can make comment on the content "which are the subject of the recent injunction are simple discussions between Board members about the levels of savings available and the different cost centres involved."

Is this a case of one rule for the rich and another for the not so rich (no offense intended to Charles)?

Or is this yet another attempt by the board to confuse the outcome of the egm on 23 July? Suddenly the board is trying to be transparent. Is this not six months or more too late?

Like Mr Crosby-Browne, I too will be delighted for this comment to appear on Housewareslive.net if the editor so wishes.
Published prior to March 2014
By Max Crosby-Browne
As a Non-Executive Director on the Board of BHETA I have been prompted to make this post as I am concerned that the facts are being misrepresented. This is clearly the case when I see the comments made by Alan Cosby above, who I know from my days on the Brush Sector Committee to be an extremely diligent person and yet is repeating claims that are wholly untrue.

Some facts:

All that has currently been proposed is an outsourcing" of our back office facilities and relocation to Birmingham. These are cost saving measures designed to reduce overheads something most Member companies will be supportive of as most of us are struggling with the same cost issues in our own businesses.

Incidentally the famous emails which are the subject of the recent injunction are simple discussions between Board members about the levels of savings available and the different cost centres involved. Again, normal, everyday email traffic showing that we non-execs are applying the appropriate checks and balances on your (and our) companies behalf. Even the lower level of potential savings represents a significant percentage of current levels.

I fully supported the legal action because, irrespective of the non-controversial content of the emails, any company has the right to ensure that emails reach their intended recipients only and are not intercepted and used to further a political end.

A Heads of Agreement has been signed which simply lays out a road map for how BHETA might become part of a wider Trade Association umbrella organisation. No irreversible commitment has been made and the Board has never suggested that it has. We have two years to work in Birmingham whilst we fully evaluate the potential benefits for the Members. If we believe those benefits are tangible then they will be presented to the membership and a further EGM will take place to consider the proposals.

If the Members decide the benefits are not worthwhile, they will vote no and it won t happen.

If the decision is taken to go ahead then we allocate a % of our assets into a central fund as all other associations have done. Should we subsequently decide to exit for whatever reason then we take our assets out with us at the level they sit at within the overall investment portfolio at the time. A very similar concept to buying a house with friends and subsequently deciding to end the arrangement. There is absolutely no, non-returnable joining fee as has been suggested. I for one would not have supported this project if there had been.

Members were given full information about this at the meeting in December, at the recent AGM, and in the recent EGM papers.

The only reason an EGM has now been called is in response to Charles campaign to form a separate Housewares Association something that goes against all economic logic as it would increase costs as a percentage of revenues notwithstanding the fact that it would also lead to the demise of the DIY Sector. However, it is a Members association and therefore Members should be given the chance to consider and vote for all options just as they are with the Board s preferred route of forming closer ties with other Associations.

So, a lot of fuss about nothing? I think so.

Any potential merger is at least 2 years away and will be subject to a further EGM.
There is no non-returnable joining fee.
The controversial emails were simple Budget discussions.
The legal action was fully justified and could have been prevented at any time.

The Board of BHETA may not win any prizes for its PR Campaigns, but it is seeking to reduce the amount of Members money which is spent on overheads and to increase the amount spent on tangible benefits, something that all of the Members I have spoken to fully support.

All of the information above is already in the public domain but for some people the truth clearly doesn t make an interesting story.

As a final point I would say that if you feel strongly about your Association, and you should, then please come to the Sector Meetings and make your voice heard. Volunteer to be on the Sector Committees, we need all the input we can get. And finally, put yourself forward to be on the Board. That is the way to influence the future direction of your Association.

I am more than happy for this post to be added to the Housewares live forum should the editors consider it to be useful.

Max Crosby-Browne
Published prior to March 2014
By Edmond Hobden
I am amazed by the boards action , as it suggests that there is something that would affect the outcome of the EGM vote , which they wish to hide.
Shades of Downing Street spin !
Come clean or your credibility will be
damaged for good.

Published prior to March 2014
By Anonymous
i see that BHETA is running scared from Charles Harrison (they like other Trade Associations hide everything from its members) well good luck to him, other members from other trade associations should do the same, these people that so called run the Associations are a law on to themselves ripping their members off, come on insist that come clean , it will be better reading than the Daily Mail's relevation on the mp's expenses

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