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'Big 4' accountancy firms are price-fixing mafia

 
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TonyGosling
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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 7:33 pm    Post subject: 'Big 4' accountancy firms are price-fixing mafia Reply with quote

Raw dealing
The claims of professional ethics may provide a veneer of respectability for major accountancy firms, but their practices reveal the truth.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/prem_sikka_/2007/05/raw_dealing.ht ml

May 30, 2007

Accountancy firms are the new masters of the universe shaping audits, accounting, accountability, corporate governance, taxation, insolvency, consultancy, railways, the NHS, Private Finance Initiative (PFI), government departments and much more.
The world of accountancy is dominated by just four secretive accountancy firms: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young and KPMG, although their might is now being challenged by mid-tier firms such as Grant Thornton. The Big Four's combined global income of $80bn is greater than the gross domestic product of many nation states. They are controlled by secret trusts headquartered in offshore tax havens (Bermuda and Switzerland), which do not have multilateral information sharing treaties with other countries. Despite appealing to codes of ethics, profit-hungry accountancy firms are engaged in a race to the bottom. A few examples would help to illustrate the issues.
In the year 2000, the Italian competition authority fined the then Big Six accountancy firms for operating an illegal cartel. Their secret agreements included fixing prices and deciding in advance the firm that would win any auditing contracts. More recently, the Big Four firms, plus Grant Thornton, got together to challenge the French government over its law barring accountancy firms from auditing a company's accounts if they have provided advisory services to the client in the past two years. The same firms are planning to make further joint challenges to the French law. The UK government has shown no interest in investigating the practices of major firms.
Around the world, some $2.5 trillion is estimated to be laundered each year. An early indication of the involvement of accountants is provided by the UK high court judgment in the case of AGIP (Africa) Limited v Jackson & Others (1990) 1 Ch 265et seq. The judgment noted that:
"Mr Jackson and Mr Griffin are professional men. They obviously knew they were laundering money ... It must have been obvious to them that their clients could not afford their activities to see the light of the day. ... [They] were introduced to the High Holborn branch of Lloyds Bank Plc in March 1983 by a Mr Humphrey, a partner in the well-known firm of Thornton Baker [this is now part of Grant Thornton]. They probably took over an established arrangement. Thenceforth they provided the payee companies ... In each case Mr Jackson and Mr Griffin were the directors and the authorised signatories on the company's account at Lloyds Bank. In the case of the first few companies Mr Humphrey was also a director and authorised signatory. "
Despite the very strong court judgment, there has been no investigation by any UK government department, regulator or professional body.
Tax avoidance is a huge money-spinner for accountancy firms. The US government is estimated to be losing nearly $300bn of tax revenues each year. The US Senate committee on governmental affairs (pdf) investigated the activities of KPMG and after examining the firm's internal documents concluded (page 4 of the report) that the firm:
" ... devoted substantial resources to, and obtained significant fees from, developing, marketing, and implementing potentially abusive and illegal tax shelters that US taxpayers might otherwise have been unable, unlikely or unwilling to employ, costing the treasury billions of dollars in lost tax revenues".
The Senate hearings found that to secure competitive advantage senior officials at the firm had decided not to comply with the law requiring them to register avoidance schemes with the tax authorities. One internal document, mentioned on page 13 of the Senate report (pdf), noted that:
"Based upon our analysis of the applicable penalty sections, we conclude that the penalties would be no greater than $14,000 per $100,000 in KPMG fees ... For example, our average ... deal would result in KPMG fees of $360,000 with a maximum penalty exposure of only $31,000".
Through such strategies KPMG received more than $120m in fees while the US treasury lost billions in tax revenues.
Subsequently, the US department of justice charged (pdf) the firm with criminal conduct. The firm admitted such conduct and paid a fine of $456m. Several KPMG (now ex) partners are facing what the US department of Justice described as "the largest criminal tax case ever filed". In March 2006, one of its ex-partners told a court, "I willfully aided and abetted the evasion of taxes". Other major firms and their partners are also facing lawsuits for selling questionable tax avoidance schemes.
The US methods for selling tax services also appear to be used in the UK. For example, a Tax Tribunal heard (pdf) that KPMG cold-called clients to sell a VAT avoidance scheme. The scheme was found to be unlawful and the firm appealed to the European court of justice, which declared it to be "unacceptable". Accountancy firms continue to sell dubious tax avoidance schemes (pdf). A partner of a mid-tier firm was bold enough to say: "no matter what legislation is in place, the accountants and lawyers will find a way around it. Rules are rules, but rules are meant to be broken". The UK is estimated to be losing between £97bn and £150bn of tax revenues each year. Yet neither the Treasury nor any select committee has launched an investigation into the practices of major firms.
In 2001, the New York district attorney told a US Senate committee that:
"In 1996 my office concluded a case involving the bribery of bank officers in US and foreign banks in connection with sales of emerging markets debt, transactions that earned millions for the corrupt bankers and their co-conspirators. In this case, a private debt trader in Westchester County, New York, formerly a vice president of a major US bank, set up shell companies in Antigua with the help of one of the "big-five" [these are now part of the Big Four firms] accounting firms; employees of the accounting firm served as nominee managers and directors.
The payments arranged by the accounting firm on behalf of the crooked debt trader included bribes paid to a New York banker in the name of a British Virgin Islands company, into a Swiss bank account; bribes to two bankers in Florida in the name of another British Virgin Islands corporation and bribes to a banker in Amsterdam into a numbered Swiss account".
Successive UK governments have failed to commission any independent investigations into the real or alleged audit failures at Polly Peck, Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), Levitt Group of Companies, The Accident Group, Resort Hotels, or the UK parts of the Enron, WorldCom, Ahold, Parmalat, WestLB, Hollinger and Xerox episodes. In other countries, the regulators are becoming more concerned. The US securities and exchange commission (SEC) fined PricewaterhouseCoopers for persistent violation of auditor independence rules. Ernst and Young (E&Y) were prosecuted for persistent violations of auditor independence rules.
In April 2004, a 69 page court judgment (pdf) stated: "EY committed repeated violation of the auditor independence standards by conduct that was reckless, highly unreasonable and negligent ... They were committed by professionals throughout the firm, who exhibited no caution or concern for rules on auditor independence in connection with business relationships with an audit client ... EY partners acted recklessly and negligently in committing wilful and deliberate violations of well-established rules ... "
The firm was banned for six months from securing any new audit clients and put on probation for three years.
In another case, a US judge banned a Deloitte & Touche partner for life for audit failures at Adelphia. The judge ruled that among other things the audit partner bowed to pressure from the company, which didn't want to disclose the full amount of money it co-borrowed with businesses owned by its founders.
In September 2005, four accountants at the Japanese firm ChuoAoyama PricewaterhouseCoopers were arrested for allegedly helping Kanebo executives falsify accounting reports and conceal losses of nearly £1bn. After further investigations the Japanese regulators suspended the firm's statutory auditing operations for two months. This effectively haemorrhaged the firm's operations. It subsequently reinvented itself by forming another organisation.
The above is only part of the mounting evidence that raises concerns about the activities of major accountancy firms and highlights the need for UK regulators to intervene.

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Last edited by TonyGosling on Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:02 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers hit back as probe attacks audit ‘closed club’
Mark Leftly - Friday 22 February 2013
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/kpmg-deloitte-ernst--y oung-and-pricewaterhousecoopers-hit-back-as-probe-attacks-audit-closed -club-8507238.html
The Competition Commission has found that the audit market has “systemic” issues that have led to a closed club of the Big Four accountants dominating the sector.
Senior figures at KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers have reacted angrily to the findings of Laura Carstensen, the commission’s inquiry chairman, that the market is suffering from a lack of competition. Between them, the Big Four run the numbers of more than 95% of the FTSE 350, a market worth almost £800 million in fees.
After 16 months of investigation, Carstensen’s provisional report says corporates should be compelled to re-tender audit work more regularly. They could also be forced to change their auditor every seven, 10 or 14 years, depending on further findings during consultation, and prohibit loan terms that specifically say a Big Four auditor must be used on the accounts.
Carstensen told the Evening Standard: “This is systemic. There’s a stickiness in the market — the fact is that companies stick with an audit firm for decades, which can potentially lead to quality issues. There would be price benefits from switching around.”
The commission also wants audit committees and shareholders to have more of a say than management over who runs the rule over company accounts and the fees that they are paid. “Management interests might diverge from shareholders — they would want to present things in a favourable light while shareholders might want warts-and-all accounts,” she added.
Richard Sexton, PwC’s head of reputation and public policy, dismissed this argument, saying: “We believe that the Competition Commission has grossly underestimated the critical role that audit committees play in protecting the interests of shareholders.”
Ernst & Young denied the audit market was failing to serve shareholders, saying it believed “competition between audit firms is healthy and robust, and that the evidence supports this”.
Mid-tier accountants have long called for reform, with BDO, Grant Thornton and Mazars among the most vocal. BDO senior audit partner James Roberts said: “Although these findings are game-changing, I don’t see a landslide of work coming our way soon.”
However, Roberts believes the reforms could mean the Big Four’s hold of the FTSE 350 market will slide to as low as 80% within five years. The commission’s final report is due in August.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When banks make loans they have been stipulating that whoever takes the loan must be audited by the big 4 crooks!

"prohibition of ‘Big-4-only’ clauses in loan documentation"
http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/media-centre/latest-news/2013  /Feb/audit-market-not-serving-shareholders

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My contacts tell me KPMG are the worst of the big four croked 'financial services' firms
KPMG faces possible audit inquiry over HBOS failure
KPMG is facing a possible investigation by the accounting watchdog into its audit of HBOS, the failed lender that a parliamentary commission last week claimed would have gone bust even without the financial crisis.
By Philip Aldrick, and James Kirkup
Telegraph - 08 Apr 2013
Although the Big Four accounting firm was not criticised by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, the damning report revealed HBOS was carrying £47bn of losses when rescued by the taxpayer despite getting a clean bill of health from KPMG.
In HBOS’s corporate arm alone, KPMG cleared management’s decision to set aside just £370m in provisions in May 2008, when the final divisional losses ended up being £25bn.
In light of the findings, the Financial Reporting Council said it would review both the commission’s report and the conclusions of the Financial Services Authority’s upcoming review into HBOS’ collapse, “to see whether there is a case for an investigation under our powers”.
“We continue to monitor the situation,” a spokesman said. “There isn’t an official investigation currently”.
The parliamentary report was highly critical of the HBOS management’s “reckless” stewardship, prompting calls for ex-chief executive Sir James Crosby to lose his knighthood and return some of his £570,000 annual pension.
David Cameron yesterday refused to intervene over Sir James’ honour, despite pressing for former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin to lose his knighthood last year. His spokesman said: “The Prime Minister’s very clear view is that it is a matter for the Forfeiture Committee.”
MPs have also demanded Sir James hand back some of his pension.
The critical Commission report has led to Sir James quitting as an adviser to private equity firm Bridgepoint and his tenure as Compass’s senior independent director is looking increasingly shaky after the contract caterer refused to back him. He has also stepped down as treasurer of Cancer Research UK.
Concerns about KPMG’s audits will raise further questions about John Griffith-Jones’ position as chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority, which has taken over responsibility for the HBOS report following the FSA’s disbanding last week. Mr Griffith-Jones was chairman of KPMG during the years it audited HBOS and, as a former partner, would be liable for claims against the firm.
At a September FSA board meeting last year, attended by Mr Griffith-Jones, then deputy chairman, the watchdog decided not to investigate KPMG. The FSA “would take account of input from the auditors but not review their work nor seek to opine on relevant accounting standards and their application”.
Mr Griffith-Jones declared “he was previously employed by KPMG” at the meeting, but one corporate governance expert said he should not have been involved in the decision at all.
An FCA spokesman said Mr Griffith-Jones “does not sit on the FCA sub-committee which is tasked with overseeing the HBOS report”. She added it “not responsible for regulation of auditors. We will look at the factual input of auditors in areas such as provisioning and ask questions where appropriate.”
A KPMG spokesman said: “We stand by the quality of our audit work.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9979995/KPMG-faces-possib le-audit-inquiry-over-HBOS-failure.html

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big Four accountancy firms 'too close to company bosses'
The Competition Commission's report on how KPMG, PwC, Ernst & Young and Deloitte audit 90% of businesses is due
David Feeney - The Guardian, Friday 22 February 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/feb/22/big-four-competition-co mmission-report
The bosses of Britain's largest companies are too close to the "Big Four" accountancy firms which carry out the overwhelming majority of audits, a report is expected to say on Friday.
The Competition Commission's review into how KPMG, PwC, Ernst & Young and Deloitte audit 90% of UK-listed blue chip businesses is expected to say that while it found no evidence of collusion between them, there is a restricted amount of competition.
It is expected to attack the cosy relationship between auditors and senior management at City firms, who are often alumni of the Big Four themselves.
High-ranking members of Big Four firms also sit on many company boards.
It will reportedly not seek the break up of these firms – which also provide a wide range of non-audit services to their clients – but suggest measures to reduce their stranglehold over the UK's largest firms, including a ban on "Big Four-only" clauses in loan documents from banks and giving shareholders a greater say in the choice of auditors.
Firms could also be ordered to rotate between auditors and invite other firms to tender for work on their accounts.
The investigation, ordered in 2011, was partly prompted by a House of Lords inquiry which found that listed companies, which must have their annual reports signed off by an auditor, use the same accountant for an average of 48 years, a figure the Big Four dispute.
The fear is that auditors become less sceptical over time about what clients tell them.
There was also anger that accountants gave banks a clean bill of health just before taxpayers had to rescue them during the financial crisis....



Criticism as SEVEN watchdog members set to investigate KPMG are revealed as current and former employees
By James Salmon - PUBLISHED: 22:38, 19 April 2013 | UPDATED: 22:38, 19 April 2013
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2311821/Criticism-SEVE N-watchdog-members-set-investigate-KPMG-revealed-current-employees.htm l?ito=feeds-newsxml
Seven senior members of the watchdog braced to investigate KPMG’s role in the collapse of lender HBOS are current or former employees of the accounting giant.
The revelations have raised fresh questions over the independence of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). It is poised to investigate KPMG if a separate report into HBOS’s downfall uncovers evidence that the accountant failed to vet HBOS’s finances properly.
KPMG signed off HBOS’s decision to set aside just £370million for bad loans to firms in the summer of 2008. Lloyds, which rescued HBOS, went on to rack up £46billion of losses from loans made by its corporate division................


The fallout from last week's report also continued to engulf the auditor KPMG, whose reputation was dealt another blow when the accounting regulator confirmed that it was considering investigating the Big Four accountant's audit of HBOS in the lead-up to the bank's collapse.
KPMG suffered its third major setback in less than 24 hours, having already been forced to resign as auditor of Herbalife and Sketchers in the US following an insider trading scandal.
The Financial Reporting Council said it was "monitoring the situation closely". The watchdog said it would take a final decision once a separate report on HBOS by the Financial Conduct Authority was published later this year. In response KPMG said: "We stand by the quality of our audit work at HBOS."
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/number-10-turns-up-pre ssure-on-hornby-over-hbos-8567969.html

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PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2013 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Big four' accountants 'use knowledge of Treasury to help rich avoid tax'
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/apr/26/accountancy-firms-knowl edge-treasury-avoid-tax
Experts offering advice on legislation they helped to create is 'ridiculous conflict of interest', says select committee chair Margaret Hodge


BBC manager Tim Pemberton using fraud suspects KPMG to do their business news: Friday Drivetime - BCfm's weekly politics show presented by Tony Gosling
http://vimeo.com/65929261

http://www.bcfmradio.com/2013/05/03/17/friday-drivetime-120/29198
Green Councillor Daniella Radici, Martin Summers and Tony Gosling discuss Financial services firm KPMG who have been given a slot on BBC Radio Bristol 'volunteering' a 7:30am 'business news' for the BBC Breakfast show but failing to reference a pro-Coalition government report talking up the economy promising 200,000 jobs about to come to Britain, but who wrote this report and why have the BBC given up their editorial independence? KPMG have a terrible track record and are embroiled in several scandals including criminal insider dealing in the US, falsifying the accounts of HBOS, undervaluing HBOS junk assets by 7000% just before the 2008 crash and are being investigated by the UK Competition Commission for price fixing with the other 'big four' financial services firms.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/04/11/herbalife-kpmg -london-shaw/2074607/
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/455643/20130410/kpmg-pric-hbos-skech er-herbalife.htm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/998441 2/Scandal-hit-KPMG-could-face-probe-over-HBOS-audit.html

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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Questions for KPMG over audit of troubled Co-op Bank after accountancy firm failed to spot impending financial turbulence

By Ruth Sunderland

PUBLISHED: 22:44, 28 May 2013 | UPDATED: 22:44, 28 May 2013
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2332377/Questions-KPMG -audit-troubled-Co-op-Bank-accountancy-firm-failed-spot-impending-fina ncial-turbulence.html

KPMG is facing scrutiny by accountancy watchdogs over its audit of the Co-op Bank.

The Financial Reporting Council is already considering whether to mount an investigation into the firm over its role at HBOS. In both cases, KPMG failed to spot any signs of looming disaster, despite earning millions of pounds in fees.

It was paid £7.4million by the Co-op last year, including £3.3million for ‘corporate finance services’ relating to the mutual’s doomed attempt to buy more than 600 branches from Lloyds bank in a deal known as Project Verde.


Quids in: KPMG argues that its audits were 'robust' and followed all relevant professional standards

The Big Four accountant also undertook work for the Co-op related to its takeover of Britannia building society in 2009. This is understood to have been on the retail mortgage book and not on the corporate loans that have now saddled Co-op with huge potential losses.

The FRC, the main audit regulator, says it is ‘monitoring’ the situation at both Co-op and HBOS. No official investigation has been launched.

In a worst case scenario for an audit firm, the watchdog can recommend restrictions that could include a ban on auditing financial services companies. Questions over the audit of the troubled Co-op Bank add to the woes of former KPMG chairman John Griffith-Jones (pictured above), who is facing calls to quit his new job as chairman of consumer finance regulator the FCA due to perceived conflicts of interest over HBOS.

More...
State-backed RBS 'grooming incoming finance director Nathan Bostock' to take over boss seat from Hester
Crisis-hit Co-op hires new £1m a year banking boss


Tim Bush of shareholder group Pirc, said: ‘The financial problems of Co-op Bank raise further questions not only about the conduct of the auditors but whether it is appropriate for Mr Griffith-Jones to be head of the Financial Conduct Authority.’

The firm acted as auditor to a string of failed financial sector firms including Bradford & Bingley in the UK, and Countrywide, New Century, Wachovia and Fannie Mae in the US.

The FRC is also investigating it over its audit of car dealership Pendragon. In the US, it recently quit the audits of shoe firm Skechers, as well as into Herbalife after the FBI launched a probe into insider trading allegations involving a former senior partner.

KPMG said its audits of Co-op Bank and group were ‘robust’ and followed all relevant professional standards.

It added that it highlighted a number of risks in the most recent accounts published in March. ‘Based on this publicly available information, a number of credit ratings agencies chose to downgrade the company’s rating.’

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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shameless, bungling - the tax boss who's sullied the civil service

By Andrew Pierce

PUBLISHED: 23:39, 28 May 2013 | UPDATED: 00:08, 29 May 2013
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2332364/ANDREW-PIERCE-Shamel ess-bungling--tax-boss-whos-sullied-civil-service.html

As the most powerful mandarin at HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), Dave Hartnett had a duty to be scrupulously impartial in his dealings with the powerful multi-nationals whose tax files came across his desk.

But his ‘sweetheart’ deals over lavish lunches and dinners with firms such as Goldman Sachs and Vodafone allowed them to cut millions of pounds off their tax bills.

Historically, companies in dispute with HMRC over the size of their tax bills would go to independent tribunals or the High Court, which would adjudicate on the right amount to be paid — a procedure that could take several years and cost the firms millions of pounds in legal fees.


Dave Hartnett's 'sweetheart' deals over lavish lunches and dinners with firms such as Goldman Sachs and Vodafone allowed them to cut millions of pounds off their tax bills

But Hartnett decided to take matters into his own hands. He personally agreed deals with the multi-national companies, allowing them to escape with massively reduced payments.

Every hard-working, tax-paying Briton will be outraged by the disclosure that Hartnett (who was forced to retire early) has now landed a top job with a leading accountancy firm that has been at the centre of tax avoidance allegations.

Indeed, his new job speaks volumes about just how out-of-touch many public sector grandees have become from the realities of everyday life.

For Deloitte was one of four of Britain’s biggest accounting firms whose executives told a Commons committee earlier this year that they were ‘proud’ of helping companies avoid UK tax.

More...
'Doesn't it make you sick?': MP's fury as ex-boss of HMRC lands job with firm accused of helping Starbucks avoid tax
Goldman Sachs 'sweetheart' tax deal with HMRC will stand as UK Uncut fails in court challenge
Goldman Sachs 'was let off £20m tax bill when it signed up to Government's flagship scheme to prevent embarrassing Osborne'


The firms’ bosses explained how they advised wealthy corporate clients to use offshore havens and legal loopholes — earning the accountants themselves more than £2 billion a year.

With his bombastic manner and trademark thatch of untidy greying hair, Dave Hartnett, 62, ruled HMRC as Permanent Secretary from 2008 with an iron fist.

Ignoring a series of expert committees made up of academics and lawyers who had advised the Revenue for years, he created his own brand of tax collection by thrashing out those ‘sweetheart’ settlements in what became known as the ‘meals for deals’ affair.

His preferred venues for such negotiations included The Savoy and the London Hilton on exclusive Park Lane.


Hartnett has now landed a top job with leading accountancy firm, Deloitte, whose executives told a Commons committee earlier this year that they were 'proud' of helping companies avoid UK tax

It was revealed that Hartnett accepted corporate hospitality on 107 occasions (dining 27 times at the tables of the ‘big four’ accounting firms). It led to stinging criticism from MPs for him creating ‘far too cosy a relationship between HMRC and large companies’.

Margaret Hodge, the no-nonsense Chairman of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, said at the time: ‘Had I, as a minister, done that with organisations I was doing business with, I would have been on the front of the Daily Mail and pushed out of my job.’

Giving evidence to the same committee in the autumn of 2011 about the ‘meals for deals’, Hartnett was tetchy and bad-tempered.

Under unusually harsh questioning from MPs, he was tackled about his dealings with Goldman Sachs — which was let off a £20  million tax bill after the investment bank agreed to sign up to the Government’s flagship tax reforms.

Hartnett told the committee: ‘I do not deal with Goldman’s tax affairs.’

Yet he then admitted he had been entertained at the investment bank for supper and had, the previous year, assisted two of his colleagues ‘with a difficult relationship issue’ connected to the bank.


Hartnett accepted corporate hospitality on 107 occasions. Margaret Hodge, said at the time: 'Had I, as a minister, done that with organisations I was doing business with, I would have been on the front of the Daily Mail and pushed out of my job'

The committee would subsequently accuse him of providing misleading evidence.

Tory MP Jesse Norman wrote: ‘In earlier testimony, Dave Hartnett told me that the Revenue never charged less than the tax owing — Goldman Sachs shows this to be false.

‘He also said he could not recall seeing an example of tax evasion by a very big business. But who needs to evade tax when the Permanent Secretary is available to do private deals?’

Hartnett had also told a previous committee chairman, Edward Leigh, it was illegal for him to reveal details on cases such as Goldmans.

However, legal advice given to him said that, as part of his duty to assist Parliament, he could use his discretion to discuss them.

This month, a court ruled that the deal brokered by Hartnett that saved Goldman Sachs £20 million was ‘lawful’ but ‘not a glorious episode in the history of the revenue’.

At the same time as Hartnett was adopting a softly-softly approach to corporate Britain, he presided over a series of blunders at the HMRC which would have cost him his job in the private sector.

The biggest occurred under the Labour government when the then Chancellor, Alistair Darling, admitted that HMRC mistakes meant that disks containing the personal records of 25 million people had gone missing when transferred from the tax authorities to the National Audit Office.

Hartnett then refused to apologise for the breakdown in the tax system which left millions with incorrect tax codes.

Up to 1.4 million people, including 150,000 pensioners, were landed with unexpected tax demands of around £1,400. In a subsequent BBC interview, Hartnett — whose salary was £25,000 more than the Prime Minister’s — dismissed calls to apologise.

He told Radio 4’s Moneybox programme: ‘I’m not sure I see the need to apologise. We didn’t get it wrong.’

Lord Oakeshott, a Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, warned at the time that Hartnett should ‘listen to his staff’, who were overwhelmingly critical of his management style.


In 2011, MPs tackled Hartnett about his dealings with Goldman Sachs - which was let off a £20 million tax bill after the investment bank agreed to sign up to the Government's flagship tax reforms

‘If any chief executive in the private sector continued in this way, they would have been out on their ear some time ago,’ said Oakeshott.

After a furious backlash, Chancellor George Osborne forced Hartnett into a humiliating public apology.

Retiring last summer, Hartnett was given a dinner in Oxford to mark his departure.

Activists gatecrashed it to present him with a Golden Handshake Award. Posing as representatives from Goldman Sachs and Vodafone (which Hartnett allowed to short-change the British Exchequer by funnelling its tax affairs through Holland), they mockingly lavished praise on a mortified Hartnett for saving the companies billions.

Before he retired, it also emerged that he had spent thousands of pounds of public funds on extravagant trans-atlantic trips, including a stay at a luxury £350-a-night Florida hotel. He racked up £10,245 expenses in nine months.


Hartnett first came to public attention in 1990 when, as head of the Revenue's inquiry branch, he was in charge of prosecuting comedian Ken Dodd for alleged tax evasion

Self-confident to the point of arrogance, he once told a committee of MPs he was the only commissioner with the ‘deep tax knowledge’ to conduct reviews of controversial tax cases at the highest level.

Hartnett first came to public attention in 1990 when, as head of the Revenue’s inquiry branch, he was in charge of prosecuting comedian Ken Dodd for alleged tax evasion. The entertainer had admitted hoarding £336,000 in cash in the 1970s because he ‘feared a civil war’ was about to break out in the UK.

Hartnett was anticipating victory — but he hadn’t reckoned on a jury of people from Liverpool exonerating their local hero. Dodd walked free, complaining his life had been ruined by the Revenue.

Despite the setback, in 2003 Hartnett was made a CBE. Five years later, he was named head of HMRC.

His tenure saw the traditional social contract between the State and society, under which people don’t generally cavil about paying their due taxes, become seriously undermined.

By tearing up the rule book and allowing multi-national companies to negotiate their tax bills rather than abide by the strict and detailed tax codes, Harnett changed the whole culture of the tax system.

This free-for-all culture led to increasing numbers of major companies engage in tax avoidance, because they were convinced they would not be dragged into protracted legal battles.

As a result, Hartnett paved the way for a new generation of American companies, such as Amazon and Google, which legally skirt around Britain’s tax system and which regard tax avoidance as a right.

To this day, Hartnett believes that, despite his ‘sweetheart’ deals, he saved the taxpayer money. But as UK Uncut — the organisation formed to highlight and combat corporate tax avoidance — said yesterday: ‘Dave Hartnett has been welcomed with open arms by the very people he was supposed to be regulating.’

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2013 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

New City watchdog chairman is facing fresh HBOS storm
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-2307122/New-City-watchdo g-chairman-facing-fresh-HBOS-storm.html

By RUTH SUNDERLAND - PUBLISHED: 22:50, 10 April 2013 | UPDATED: 22:50, 10 April 2013
Former KPMG boss John Griffith-Jones is under fire as chairman of new City watchdog the FCA after it emerged he was involved in a key meeting held by the regulator to set the terms of an investigation into HBOS, despite his self-confessed conflict of interest.
KPMG acted as auditor to HBOS from 2001 to 2009.
Griffith-Jones, who joined the firm in 1975, was its UK chairman during the period the lender hurtled towards ruin, seemingly unnoticed by the beancounters, who gave its accounts a clean bill of health only months before its collapse. The audit firm earned £15.7million in fees from HBOS in 2008, before being ejected.
The implosion of HBOS was not seen as a bar by the Treasury to appointing Griffith-Jones to be deputy chairman of the FSA last September. That post was previously occupied by former HBOS chief executive James Crosby. After the disbanding of the FSA this year, Griffith-Jones was shunted into the chairmanship of its successor, the FCA.
KPMG KYBOSHED
He is thought to be earning around £300,000 a year for the three-day-a-week job, having retired last summer from KPMG with a £3million pay and pension packet. The 37-year KPMG veteran participated in his first board meeting for the watchdog on September 5, 2012 by conference call, to discuss its inquiry into HBOS. The minutes of that meeting show it was agreed the probe would not cover KPMG’s audit. Griffith-Jones ‘declared an interest’, but did not absent himself from the meeting.
Alan MacDougall, managing director of shareholder lobby group PIRC, said he should have recused himself so as not to ‘influence or inhibit’ any discussion of KPMG.
‘It cannot be right that the chairman of the new FCA has any link with the second largest UK banking collapse in history’ he added, saying Griffith-Jones should at least step down until KPMG has been properly investigated.
KPMG said it stands by the quality of its audit of HBOS. The FCA said it is not responsible for the regulation of auditors.
Griffith-Jones is not personally involved in compiling the report into HBOS, which is being overseen by Andrew Bailey, the UK’s top banking supervisor.
Accountancy regulator the Financial Reporting Council is mulling whether to launch a probe into KPMG’s audit of HBOS.
The firm this week quit the audits of two US firms, Herbalife and Skechers after the FBI launched an investigation into insider trading allegations involving a former senior partner.
It is being investigated in the UK over its audit work on BAE Systems and work done in the controversial takeover of British software group Autonomy by Hewlett-Packard of the US.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-2307122/New-City-watchdo g-chairman-facing-fresh-HBOS-storm.html



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KPMG crooked profits up 27%
MARK LEFTLY Author Biography Monday 16 December 2013
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/kpmg-holds-back-20m-fr om-partners-to-boost-investment-9006490.html

Big Four accountant KPMG has prevented British partners sharing the whole of the year's profit for "the first time in living memory", according to the number-cruncher's UK chairman.

More than £20m has been held back for investment, primarily in technology, out of a profit of £455m, itself a leap of 27 per cent on last year. KPMG was able to withhold part of the pot as average pay for the 583 partners was considerably higher this year at £713,000, after a disappointing 2012 that saw them pocket £580,000 each.

Simon Collins, who took home more than £2.4m, told The Independent: "We've always distributed 100 per cent of earnings – if I'd tried to have done this last year when profit was tight I'd have been lynched. I'd like this to become a way of life for us as it's only fair to the next generation."

The money will be used in areas like cyber security and hi-tech software to help clients with their human resources management. The bean-counter has been hot on technology of late – Mr Collins describes this as the "golden thread" running through KPMG – having launched a $100m fund last month to invest in data and analytics businesses.

Although KPMG's profit was up, turnover remained broadly flat at £1.8bn. This kept the group firmly in third place, just ahead of EY but behind PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on £2.7bn and Deloitte with £2.5bn. However, Mr Collins said that KPMG had been "rebuilt financially to build a platform to invest", which last year involved cutting about three per cent of its UK workforce.

These savage cuts were privately criticised by some KPMG alumni, but Mr Collins insisted that the bus- iness was now in "full-on growing mode".

He added that KPMG will be "long-term winners" out of huge changes to the audit market that have been imposed by the Competition Commission.

The regulator has demanded that listed companies put the role of auditor out to tender on a regular basis, smashing what has been perceived to be an overly cosy relationship that can see auditors in place for decades without challenge.

KPMG has picked up some big-name new clients, including consumer goods giant Unilever, housebuilder Berkeley and insurer RSA.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating this one
They leave the best til the last line
"Sir Gerrard Peat, a partner in KPMG Peat Marwick, the leading accountancy firm, is a top Mason"
Ah, that will be the auditor that signed off the accounts of all the big banks in the years running up to 2008!
TonyGosling wrote:
Conservatives at the heart of Freemasonry
Secret order: Research shows nine Givernment peers and four sitting MPs hold senior posts
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/conservatives-at-the-heart-of-freema sonry-1580256.html

CHRIS BLACKHURST WESTMINSTER CORRESPONDENT Tuesday 31 October 1995

Nine MPs and former MPs hold posts in the highest ranks of the Freemasons - and with one exception they are Conservative.
A study by Labour Research into the 1995 Masonic Year Book - the Who's Who of Freemasonry - also shows that nine Tory peers occupy senior posts in the secretive order.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is due to break new ground by holding the first parliamentary inquiry into the extent of Masonic influence on the police and judiciary early next year.

The study also provides food for thought for Lord Nolan and his committee on standards in public life, which has also indicated a willingness to look into the mysterious craft.

As a law lord, Lord Nolan may find himself investigating his colleagues: 32 judges or retired judges are listed in the Masonic Year Book.

According to the book, the House of Lords has more leading Masons than the Commons. They start with the most powerful of all, the Duke of Kent, who, as is well-known, is grand master of the United Grand Lodge of England, the order's governing body in this country.

The number two Mason is Lord Farnham, an Irish peer. Earlier this year, the Irish peers lost their long campaign to be allowed to take their places in the Lords so he does not count among the 25 top Masons in the upper house.

Of those 25, nine are Tories, 11 are crossbenchers and four do not declare any party allegiance. One, the Duke of Kent, is above party politics as a member of the Royal Family. The Tory peers include: Lord Belstead, a former leader of the House of Lords; Lord Lane of Horsell, a former chair of the National Union of Conservative Associations; and the Earl of Elgin & Kincardine. Lord Belstead was president of the board of general purposes of the United Grand Lodge in 1994-95, while the Earl of Elgin & Kincardine is an ex-grand master for Scotland.

Four sitting Conservative MPs appear in the handbook: Tony Baldry, a junior minister; Sir Gerard Vaughan; Sir Peter Emery and Ian Bruce. Of these, Mr Bruce, who sits on a number of United Grand Lodge committees, appears to be the most prominent.

Former MPs, all Tories, in the book are: Sir Neil Thorne, who loaned his Westminster home for the Prime Minister's leadership campaign headquarters in the summer; Sir Ian Percival, a former solicitor-general; Sir David Trippier; Sir John Wells and Sir Edwin Leather. One Conservative former MEP, Sir Peter Vanneck, is also listed.

Only one former Labour politician is in the book: Niall Macdermot, who retired as Derby North's MP in 1970.

As well as Tories and judges, businessmen also occupy senior posts "on the square". They include Sir John Banham, former director-general of the CBI and a director of National Westminster Bank and National Power.

Sir Gerrard Peat, a partner in KPMG Peat Marwick, the leading accountancy firm, is a top Mason. He is also a past auditor to the Queen's Privy Purse and treasurer of the Association of Conservative Clubs.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Watchdog that cleared KPMG is run... by cronies from KPMG! Is this how accountant escaped blame over HBOS?
By JAMES BURTON FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 22:03, 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 22:11, 20 September 2017
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-4903772/Watchdog-cleared -KPMG-run-cronies-KPMG.html

The watchdog panel which cleared KPMG of wrongdoing over the collapse of HBOS was stuffed with former staff members of the tainted accountancy firm.

An investigation by the Mail has found at least three former KPMG employees served on the committee which oversaw the investigation into the firm’s audit of the toxic lender.

Together, these three had more than 65 years’ experience with the firm.

On top of this, the regulator is chaired by grandee Sir Win Bischoff, who was chairman of the bank which rescued HBOS, Lloyds, from 2009 until 2014.

Lloyds bought HBOS for £12billion in 2008, then got £20.5billion of taxpayers’ cash to keep it afloat.

Conflict of interests: At least three former KPMG employees served on the committee which oversaw the investigation into the firm¿s audit of toxic lender HBOS +3
Conflict of interests: At least three former KPMG employees served on the committee which oversaw the investigation into the firm’s audit of toxic lender HBOS

This week, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) dropped a probe into KPMG’s 2007 audit of HBOS, which was given a clean bill of health months before collapsing. Last night, MPs demanded a second probe into potential conflicts of interest.

The Mail asked the FRC to confirm whether any of the former KPMG staff were involved in the investigation - but it refused to reveal any details.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: ‘The vast majority of KPMG staff behave with integrity.

But the FRC really should have fallen over backwards to ensure there was no conflict of interest, and to proceed with the investigation rather than letting it drop.’

Former City minister and crossbench peer Lord Myners said: ‘Issues of perception always arise when a regulator makes a decision involving a firm where its senior directors were employed. Full declaration of an interest is necessary but barely sufficient.’

The watchdog only reluctantly probed last year after pressure from the Treasury Select Committee, and decided on Tuesday not to take the probe further.

But the Mail found that three former bosses at the firm have since held senior investigative roles at the regulator – particularly on the conduct committee tasked with investigating KPMG.

Paul George was FRC executive director of conduct until 2016, shortly before the probe was announced and is now head of corporate governance and reporting at the watchdog. He worked at KPMG from 1985 until 1999.

Joanna Osborne was deputy chairman of the conduct committee tasked with investigating the firm’s actions. She left KPMG in 2011 after 21 years and is on the financial reporting review panel.


One member of the 13-strong conduct committee is Sean Collins, who was at the accountant from 1972 until 2012.

Had a decision been made to take the probe further, KPMG’s actions would have been judged by a tribunal with 21 members, who include Anthony Cory-Wright – a KPMG audit partner until 2012 – and another former partner John Alexander.

Others who worked at the firm include Stephen Oxley on its audit and assurance council, and Chris Buckley on its corporate reporting council.

Refusing to say if former KPMG staff played a part in the probe, an FRC spokesman said: ‘There is a robust conflict of interest policy in place that ensures that any member of the conduct committee which decides on enforcement action plays no part in decisions where there may be a conflict of interest.

‘The decision to prosecute a case is an evidential test and executive counsel must decide if there is a realistic prospect that a tribunal would make an adverse finding of misconduct.’

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is Atul Shah's analysis of KPMG's annual report and accounts - as published last year.
http://www.ianfraser.org/are-kpmg-the-masters-of-the-universe/

Here's some detail of his new book about HBOS - which majors on the failure of KPMG as auditors (Ian Fraser wrote the foreword).
https://www.routledge.com/The-Politics-of-Financial-Risk-Audit-and-Reg ulation-A-Case-Study-of-HBOS/Shah/p/book/9781138042353

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