KPMG’s U.K. chairman has resigned days after sparking widespread anger for telling employees to stop moaning about the pandemic.
Bill Michael, KPMG’s U.K. chair and senior partner since 2017, will leave the firm at the end of the month, admitting that his position had become “untenable.”
He had been placed under investigation after telling KPMG’s financial services consulting team to “stop moaning” and “playing the victim card” when employees voiced concern over possible cuts to their pay and pensions at a virtual meeting Monday.
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“I love the firm and I am truly sorry that my words have caused hurt amongst my colleagues and for the impact the events of this week have had on them,” Michael said in an emailed statement Friday. “In light of that, I regard my position as untenable and so I have decided to leave the firm.”
Michael stepped aside from his position as chair on Wednesday for the duration of the investigation and apologized for his comments.
“It’s further evidence of a bullying culture and Bill Michael won’t be the only example of that,” said Prem Sikka, an accounting professor at Sheffield University. “They need to mend the culture and concentrate on improving audit quality rather than bullying staff.”
The pandemic has taken a toll on all professional services firms. KPMG said earlier this month that its partner profits would fall by 11 percent and it said in July, that it would cut as many as 200 jobs from its U.K. workforce.
Senior elected board member Bina Mehta has been named acting U.K. chair, with KPMG saying it would “undertake a leadership election in due course.” Mary O’Connor, KPMG’s head of clients and markets, will take over Michael’s role as senior partner.
“Bill has made a huge contribution to our firm over the last 30 years, especially over the last three years as chairman, and we wish him all the best for the future,” Mehta said.
The move comes as the so-called Big Four accounting firms have faced increasing criticism in Europe. Auditors are under greater scrutiny than ever after a series of high-profile lapses in recent years, with EY’s role in the collapse of German payments provider Wirecard AG now under the microscope.
In the U.K., KPMG has faced fierce criticism over its auditing of Carillion Plc, whose collapse prompted the government to launch a series of inquiries into auditing standards.