September 21, 2019

WhatsApp, KPMG? U.K. Partner Given the Heave-Ho Over Messages He Sent

More hijinks going on at KPMG U.K., as reported yesterday by the Financial Times:

KPMG has forced out the head of one of its core businesses in Britain after an investigation into his conduct involving messages sent on WhatsApp.

Tim Howarth, head of financial services consulting at KPMG, is the third senior partner to be investigated by the firm this year over claims of misconduct.

KPMG convened a disciplinary panel on Friday and then ousted Mr Howarth, whose profile was removed from the firm’s website over the weekend. Two people briefed on the matter said the matter related to messages sent via the WhatsApp service.

Tim Howarth

What did Howarth say on WhatsApp, and to whom, that got him sent packing? We don’t know, but we’d love to know. (Hint, hint.)

We’re just guessing, but maybe he used the Facebook-owned messaging service to do a little of this. Or this.

But what else is interesting is how Howarth left KPMG. Based on this statement KPMG gave FT, it seems like he was fired:

“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.”

But according to Howarth’s statement, it seems like a classic case of “I wasn’t fired. I quit.”

“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.”

This time around, KPMG did seem to take “swift and appropriate action” regarding Howarth’s alleged misconduct, unlike the recent bullying accusations against another partner, Sanjay Thakkar, a situation in which KPMG clearly mishandled and paid for it by seeing two of its most respected female partners walk out the door.

FT mentioned that Howarth, who worked at KPMG for 15 years, is the third senior partner under investigation by the firm. One is Thakkar, who stepped down from his role as head of KPMG’s deal advisory unit and took a leave of absence from the firm in early June. The other is Peter Meehan, KPMG’s lead audit partner on Carillion, who was suspended by the firm in January. KPMG and the Financial Reporting Council are investigating whether Meehan and his team may have provided documents to the regulator that were backdated in relation to Carillion.

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