The filing comes three days before the third anniversary of the collapse of Carillion, after which time it would be too late for action to be taken.
Officials at the Insolvency Service issued the proceedings on behalf of the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy in accordance with his powers under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.
Eight former directors are named: Philip Green (chairman), Richard Howson (chief executive until shortly before the collapse), Keith Cochrane (who took over from Howson), former finance directors Richard Adam and Zafar Khan, and non-executives Andrew Dougal, Alison Horner and Ceri Powell.
A spokesman for the Insolvency Service said: “We can confirm that on 12th January 2021 the secretary of state [for business] issued company director disqualification proceedings in the public interest against eight directors and former directors of Carillion.”
Carillion collapsed into insolvency on 15th January 2017 with £7bn of liabilities and the loss of thousands of jobs.
The Unite union said that the move to bar Carillion directors from boardroom roles was welcome but should have come sooner.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Carillion’s collapse was not a victimless white-collar crime as thousands of workers lost their jobs. If executives and directors had reported honestly on Carillion’s financial predicament, many of those job losses could have been avoided.
“We would like to see those responsible for the Carillion debacle to be charged and appear in court. Without a doubt Carillion had been trading while insolvent for some time before its collapse.
“The events behind the Carillion collapse demonstrated everything that is wrong with corporate law in the UK; a failure to act before a company collapses and very slow investigations.
“New business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has injected a much-needed impetus into the Carillion affair, but needs to cast his net wider to clean up the culture of ‘bandit capitalism’ across the UK corporate environment with a strong system of regulation and enforcement.
“Only by taking much more robust action can shareholders, employees, customers and, more widely, the general public be reassured that collapses such as Carillion won’t be repeated. It was a stain on the UK’s corporate reputation.”