KPMG head of FS consulting forced to leave

Tim Howarth, KPMG’s head of financial services consulting, has been forced to leave the Big Four audit firm following an investigation into allegations of misconduct

Howarth has spent 14 years at KPMG, where his roles previously included acting as client lead partner for Lloyds Banking Group. Prior to joining the firm, he was with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), working on projects including the senior management arrangements systems and control policy, approved persons regime, authorisation processes and rulebook guidance.

KPMG convened a disciplinary panel on Friday, following which the decision to remove Howarth was taken, according to reports in the Financial Times. Reports, which have not been confirmed by KPMG, suggest the allegations involve messages sent via the WhatsApp service.

In response, a KPMG spokesperson said: ‘We hold all of our people to a very high standard and take swift and appropriate action against any individual whose behaviour contravenes the firm’s values.

‘As part of this commitment, we can confirm conduct issues have been raised related to a partner and, following an internal investigation and disciplinary panel, that partner has left the firm. Under our process the partner has appealed.’

In response, Howarth said: ‘I am surprised by the KPMG announcement of the outcome of a disciplinary panel, which is bizarre as the decision is under appeal. I have not been given the reason for that decision.

‘I had already resigned from the KPMG partnership. I did not believe that the process was fair or would lead to a just outcome. There is no complainant and there were no formal allegations pursued by anyone.’

Last week staff in the financial services team at the firm had to complete an email audit to check whether there were signs of use of bullying language in correspondence. A KPMG spokesperson told Accountancy Daily that 'no such process had taken place'.  

In June, Sanjay Thakkar, head of KPMG’s deal advisory unit, who had worked for the firm for nearly 30 years, took a leave of absence after two female KPMG partners resigned in protest over how an internal review into allegations of bullying had been handled.

Maggie Bereton, and Ina Kjaer, head of integration and separation on the deals advisory team, had resigned in February after they said KPMG failed to take adequate action to resolve the issue. When the allegations of bullying were first raised and rejected by the firm, Thakkar went through a conduct investigation and was cleared of any wrongdoing after he took leadership coaching.

After further allegations came to light Thakkar, who has been with KPMG since 1991, took leave of absence pending the outcome of a second investigation, which is ongoing.

Last month, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) introduced new measures from October requiring the six largest audit firms to provide regular updates on any instances of bullying and harassment, and details of action taken. The FRC’s move follows disclosures from the Big Four at the end of last year revealing 37 UK partners had been fired over bullying and harassment issues since 2014.

Pat Sweet | 13 Aug 2019

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