An executive at professional services giant Deloitte who faced complaints over sexist and racist comments he made while drunk at a work social event has been allowed to retire.
Witnesses to the incident at Royal Ascot racecourse said Stephen Cahill, 51, who ran Deloitte’s executive compensation practice in the UK, went on a 30-minute “sexist, racist and bullying” tirade that had allegedly contained an offensive remark about an employee from an ethnic minority.
According to a report in Financial Times, about 30 members of Deloitte’s executive compensation team were at the event and many heard Cahill’s remarks.
An internal investigation was launched into the incident, the outcome of which has caused surprise and frustration among employees. Being offered retirement “does not feel moral”, one employee has said, given Cahill’s role in advising large listed companies on diversity and inclusion targets.
A witness to the rant told the FT: “Badging it as retirement is not appropriate. Big companies have so much education and training on what is appropriate and taking a zero-tolerance approach … this does not feel like ‘zero tolerance’.”
A Deloitte spokesman said: “Stephen Cahill is retiring from Deloitte. We don’t have any comment on Stephen’s retirement.”
Within Deloitte UK, Cahill was one of only 25 vice-chairmen. The firm’s partners were paid, on average, just over £1m last year. Cahill’s profile page on the Deloitte website has been removed.
David Sproul, the former head of Deloitte UK, had previously committed to firing staff for “any inappropriate behaviour”, adding: “No one is protected.” The firm’s UK division has been run by Richard Houston since June 2019.
Deloitte, which employs 23,000 people in the UK, publishes ethic metrics and encourages staff to “raise concerns about wrongdoing of any sort – whether it is about the behaviour of an individual or relating to organisational integrity”.
Debbie Rheder, Deloitte global chief ethics officer is quoted on the company website saying: “At Deloitte, we aim to do the right thing even – and especially – when it is difficult to do so.”
Its most recent performance report reveals that 235 cases were raised in the 2022 financial year, up from 228 in 2021. Nearly a third, or 29%, related to “respect and fair treatment” and 11% to harassment, including sexual harassment.
The incident at Deloitte is the latest scandal to befall the sector. Last November, a partner at EY, resigned after the sexual harassment of a female trainee on an annual company ski trip. He had initially been allowed to retain his job, despite a tribunal ruling that he had behaved in an “obscene and aggressive way”.
City firms have attempted to curb excessive drinking in recent years. Lloyd’s of London has fined underwriter member firms over staff behaviour and has vowed to improve the male-dominated culture. A survey commissioned by the insurance marketplace found that 8% of workers said they had suffered or witnessed sexual harassment.
Firms such as PwC has also made moves to improve behaviour by sending “responsible” employees to social events to prevent drunken and lewd behaviour.