As you may have heard, the Big 4 found it within themselves to unite in a recent advertisement taken out in three Chinese-language newspapers warning against pro-democracy protests that would clog up downtown and make it really hard to lube up the capitalist machine with trust and reliable audit opinions.
Thanks to our pal Professor Paul Gillis for sending over a copy of the ad:
I know what you're thinking. Adrienne, what the hell am I supposed to do with that? Thankfully, we found a translator:
Opposition against taking over Central Hong Kong
Through this notice, we express our opposition against taking over Central, Hong Kong. Taking over Central, Hong Kong, will have negative impact over legal, social, and economics environment. We hope this issue will be resolved through peaceful dialogue.
Legal system and social order are Hong Kong’s core value, and they provide pro-business environment which attracts foreign investments. Obeying the law and respecting other’s rights are the responsibilities of every citizen.
Central Hong Kong is considered as the central business district where majority of transactions take place. It is also where many multi-national enterprises, local enterprises, securities exchanges, financial and professional service firms are headquartered. In our opinion, if Central, Hong Kong, was taken over, various businesses including banks, securities exchanges, and stock market will be affected. In addition, it will cause delays to all types of business transactions. Furthermore, monitoring agencies might not be able to continue normal operations which leads to the instability of the market environment. The negative social and economic impact will be beyond measure.
In fact, many of our clients have voiced their concerns over this issue. Many multi-national enterprises and investors consider moving their regional headquarters or withdraw their businesses. This will have a long term negative impact on Hong Kong’s presence as a global business center. Many recent international research reports point out challenges ahead Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a global business center. Hong Kong’s competitiveness will be weaken when facing negative social and economic impacts. Our next generation will be facing even more challenging environment.
Therefore, we ask related parties to consider the overall and long term impact on Hong Kong as a whole.
Peaceful resolving the issue while obeying the law.
Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte, PwC
The reception to this unprecedented cooperative effort has been, expectedly, not so good:
Stella Fearnley, accounting professor at Bournemouth University, said the companies were "off their trolleys" for placing the advertisements.
"Speaking on behalf of your clients as an oligopoly is demonstrating a power that you think you have," she said. "They're harming their own reputations. Are they competing with each other or holding each others' hands?"
While Big 4 associates in town for work may not be wise to attend Occupy protests and then speak to the local news about it, it's quite a reach for the Big 4 to tell everyone to just stay home so they can get to the office that day. Think of the capital markets, people!
A group of Big 4 employees who say they love Hong Kong have taken out their own ad in response, telling TPTB "You boss, your statement does not represent our stance."
It is assumed by many that the firms were pressured by their clients (the largest of which are Chinese state-owned enterprises) to place this ad. Certainly there are few instances in the past where the firms have spoken out in one voice for social reforms.
The arrogance of the firms is stunning. Did they really think their voice would alter the debate? Do they really think people respect their opinions that much? Did they not see that all they were doing is setting themselves up for ridicule while diminishing their brand worldwide?
This is clearly the most excitement we've had in Big 4 advertising since PwC pissed everyone off with that condescending "you rock" thank you ad in the Wall Street Journal.