A Reed Smith always pays its debts.
Reed Smith has said it will repay in full the furlough money it took from the UK government, after it was publicly shamed.
The US firm claimed between £50,000 and £125,000 for its London office operations during a five month period this year, despite being extremely profitable, and may have claimed even more last year when payments were not disclosable.
Reed Smith’s revenue has swelled by 5% to $1.31 billion and its equity partners were paid an average of $1.5 million, up from $1.3 million the year before.
When its use of the scheme was first questioned, a Reed Smith spokesperson explained that until recently six staff from its facilities team were on the flexible version of the furlough scheme, working alternate weeks in teams of three.
Having initially refused to say whether it would pay the money back, Reed Smith has now confirmed that it will reimburse HMRC in full.
“Due to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic the firm took a number of prudent measures to limit its financial impact. One of these was limited use of the furlough scheme”, a spokesperson said.
“The firm’s use of the scheme was as the government intended – to protect jobs”, they said, in an alarming admission that even when making massive amounts of money, Reed Smith isn’t going to carry staff who are temporarily surplus to requirements unless someone else pays it to.
As a result of being able to re-open its London office “we have been able to bring back the previously furloughed six facilities staff”, it said.
Reed Smith also disclosed that it had only ever committed to thinking about repaying the money, which is admirably honest. “Our intention has always been to consider repayment once the office could re-open and our use of the scheme had finished”, it said.
But after a good flogging in the press, “we will be doing so in full and have already notified HMRC to this effect”, said the firm.