The Financial Times reported today that three—THREE—senior executives at KPMG U.K. were aware of and ignored concerns from staff as early as 2017 alleging senior partner Sanjay Thakkar was acting like a bully before they finally got around to launching an investigation about the complaints last October.
KPMG employees approached the firm’s UK managing partner Philip Davidson, its deputy chair Melanie Richards, and its head of HR Anna Purchas with concerns about Sanjay Thakkar’s behaviour at different points over the past two years, according to several people close to the firm.
KPMG is putting on a clinic of what not to do if your firm gets complaints from employees about the way a partner or manager behaves. The firm’s ineptness has resulted in two longtime female partners quitting the firm in protest over the way it handled the bullying complaints, as well as strife among its staff, some of whom now believe that KPMG did everything in its power to try and protect Thakkar because he was the head of the firm’s advisory unit, which just so happens to generate a lot of revenue.
In 2018, KPMG U.K.’s deal advisory practice, which Thakkar oversees, increased its revenues by 14%—the highest of the firm’s four divisions, which include audit, consulting, and tax. So of course the firm was trying to protect him.
Earlier this week, when the shit started hitting the fan at KPMG after FT, The Times, and others published articles about why Maggie Brereton, former head of U.K. transaction services and a nonexecutive U.K. board member, and Ina Kjaer, former head of U.K. integration in the deal advisory team, resigned in February, KPMG emailed its staff to say Thakkar had quit his role as head of deal advisory “in the wider interest of the firm” and was taking a leave of absence while a new investigation into the bullying accusations was being conducted.
The first investigation, which was initiated after concerns were raised—informally and formally—about Thakkar’s behavior last October, resulted in KPMG concluding that Thakkar wasn’t a bully, but “aspects of the individual’s behavior required improvement.” So they forced him to apologize to some people in January and forced him to take leadership coaching.
However, FT revealed today that Davidson, Richards, and Purchas had previously received several informal complaints about Thakkar throughout 2017 and 2018 and did nothing about it.
Hmmm, maybe this could be the reason for their inaction on the matter:
Mr Thakkar sat on KPMG’s executive leadership team alongside Mr Davidson and Ms Purchas until this week. The leadership team now includes Ms Richards instead of Mr Thakkar as she has taken over as acting head of deal advisory.
And now, according to FT, Purchas has been told to lead an initiative on how KPMG can create a stronger culture. HA! That’s like having David Middendorf instructing a firm’s auditors on how to legally adhere to the PCAOB’s audit inspection process.
KPMG U.K. Chairman Bill Michael said in his email to staff on Monday that it was unacceptable “that not all of our people feel confident to speak up when they have concerns.”
I wonder why that is, Bill? C’mon, Bill. You know exactly why they don’t speak up.