KPMG partners leave firm after WhatsApp probe

KPMG
Photo: Nando Machado / Shutterstock.com

A misconduct investigation at services giant KPMG into the use of WhatsApp messages by senior staff has led to the departure of three top executives.

Tim Howarth, head of the firm’s financial consulting business who resigned last month, will be followed by two senior financial consultants: Mike Walters, who was head of compliance at Barclays until he joined KPMG in 2013, and Harps Sidhu, KPMG’s head of capital markets consulting. Both men will leave at the end of the month.

Howarth told the Financial Times he had already resigned and he vowed to appeal the outcome. He said there was no complainant and he did not believe the internal process was fair or would lead to a just outcome.

A KPMG spokesperson said at the time of Howarth’s departure: “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.”

But Howarth responded that he’d already resigned and said the statement was strange considering he was planning to appeal. He said: “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.”

The Financial Times was told by one KPMG “insider” that the three senior exits had “knocked out the effective chain of leadership” within the firm’s lucrative financial services consulting division, which has turned into “a bit of a disaster zone”.

KPMG’s financial services work made revenues of £681m last year, according to the FT, making it one of the firm’s largest business lines.

In June another senior partner, Sanjay Thakkar, took a leave of absence after being sent for leadership training. He stepped down “in the wider interest of the firm” from KPMG’s deal advisory division after being accused of bullying. KPMG said that Thakkar’s behaviour did not amount to bullying, although the complaint was upheld. But two experienced female partners left the company partly over its response to the allegations against Thakkar.

KPMG has since encouraged all staff to speak up about any concerns relating to inappropriate behaviour.

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