Two related firms acting on opposite sides of the table in negotiations over access for seismic monitoring are being investigated by their professional body for alleged conflict of interest.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is examining a complaint by a retired member about the activities of the similarly-named Fisher German LLP and Fisher German Priestner, also called FGP.
In a separate development, the campaign group, Frack Free Nottinghamshire, has questioned whether FGP is complying with its published policy on corporate social responsibility in facilitating shale gas exploration.
DrillOrDrop reported in August that FGP was working on behalf of the shale gas company, INEOS, to gain access for seismic monitoring in the East Midlands. Fisher German LLP, a firm of chartered surveyors and property consultants, had offered to negotiate on behalf of landowners who had been approached by FGP.
FGP, which describes itself as a specialist in the utilities and infrastructure market, was formed 10 years ago from Fisher German LLP and Claire Priestner. It said it now operated as a standalone business “with an ethos that revolves around representing the developer rather than the landowner” (website link).
But Ben Dean, an anti-fracking campaigner and retired chartered surveyor, said links remained between the companies.
In a letter to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Mr Dean said Fisher German has a 50% stake in FGP. He also pointed out that Andrew Robert Jackson, was an LLP member listed under both businesses.
In his letter sent on 4 September 2016, Mr Dean told the RICS:
“I have never come across a more blatant and evidenced conflict of interest.
“The RICS should immediately undertake a major investigation involving the police as there is clearly here the potential for criminal activity to have been undertaken.”
Mr Dean pointed to a Fisher German web page which invited landowners contacted by FGP to use Fisher German services.
He also referred to links between the firms in Cheshire. FGP has acted for Dart Energy, an IGas subsidiary (FGP website). Fisher German LLP acted for the owner of the Duttons Lane site at Upton, near Chester, leased to Dart Energy.
The RICS had not replied to Mr Dean’s letter until today when it got its investigations team manager got in touch and said:
“I can confirm our Regulation Investigation team have now received your complaint and will be treating your information with high priority”.
Corporate social responsibility
The campaign group, Frack Free Nottingham, has written to the companies asking about their policy on corporate social responsibility.
FGP’s website says:
“Corporate social responsibility is fundamental in the way we do business. We are constantly aware of the needs of our employees, marketplace, community and the environment.”
But Frack Free Nottinghamshire pointed to research suggesting people may be reluctant to buy homes near shale gas sites and to fears that prices may fall as a result of fracking.
“You must surely be aware that there is now a lot of evidence that the development of unconventional gas fields damages the housing market and brings down house and other locational prices and values.
“The fall in valuation is because people anticipate a lower quality of life, health risks and more inconveniences when the gas industry is their neighbour.”
In its letter, Frack Free Nottinghamshire also raised concerns about negative effects of shale gas exploration on farming, tourism and leisure industries.
The letter continued:
“You claim to be aware of the ‘needs of the marketplace, community and environment’ yet you are helping develop an industry that will degrade the local property market, reduce the quality of life for local communities and have a major impact on the local environment – not to mention having an impact, if the industry gets beyond the exploratory phase, on the global climate system and environment.”
“How is this compatible with your corporate social responsibility statement?”
“We are satisfied that our activities on behalf of INEOS are not in conflict with our Corporate and Social Responsibility policy.
“We do not subscribe to the view that shale gas extraction itself will negatively affect property price, in fact with payments to communities and landowners and injection of investment capital in areas, the opposite could happen. What we can say with confidence is that scaremongering has a large role to play in temporarily affecting sentiment, however as more and more of the public hear from our clients and realise the shale gas extraction industry is not the issue it is portrayed by others to be, we expect things to settle down very quickly.”
Fisher German LLP said:
“We have a large, long established client base across Nottinghamshire and North East Derbyshire where INEOS are wishing to carry out a Seismic Survey. A large number of these clients have instructed us to act for them in dealing with compensation for any damage caused to their property or crops during the Survey. Our clients will make their own decisions as to whether to allow INEOS access or not.”
DrillOrDrop asked FGP and Fisher German LLP to comment on the issues in this post. We will update with any response.