KPMG Netherlands chairman Jurgen van Breukelen has resigned in an attempt to restore trust in the troubled Dutch Big Four firm, recently tarnished by several issues including decreased revenues and a controversial private investment initiative of the resigning chairman.

KPMG Netherlands said Van Breukelen stepped down so that the attention focuses fully on the progress the firm is making to implement changes within the organisation.

According to the latest IAB survey, KPMG Netherlands was the only Big Four firm that experienced a drop in revenues reporting €498.8m ($686.4m) in the year to December 2012, down 3% year-on-year.

"As long as the attention inside and outside our company is focused on me, rather than on the progress we are making in the process of change we are undergoing, KPMG will not be able to focus fully on its clients, its services and the turnaround we are making as an organisation," he said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the firm told the IAB that some of the issues KPMG is facing affect Van Breukelen personally, and that the local news coverage about him has driven to much attention away from KPMG’s efforts to implement those changes.

According to the Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf, one of these personal issues relates to a failed private investment operation in the real state sector.

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Quoting sources within KPMG in an April article, the newspapers said a number of partners regularly spent their working hours on FAS Veen, an investment company set up by Van Breukelen among others partners.

FAS Veen struck a €9.1m deal with the local authority of Blaricum to buy and develop real state property, including the construction of luxury apartments, but the investment never succeeded.

De Telegraaf’s article also mentioned Van Breukelen’s plans to revamp the former governance structure, under which the firm "got tangled up in various scandals, including the derivatives fraud at Vestia and the bribery cases at Ballast Nedam and SBM Offshore."

The Dutch newspaper also reported that Van Breukelen refused to answer the question of whether or not FAS Veen’s failed real estate investment was in tune with the new governance structure.

In response to the article, Van Breukelen issued a public statement in which he said the article was a spurious attempt to damage him and the reputation of the firm.

"The facts are that I stepped down as a member of the management board of the investment initiative FAS Veen, in the run-up to my appointment as member of the KPMG board of directors in 2007."

Van Breukelen said his involvement in FAS Veen had been approved by all the relevant instances and met all the compliance requirements applicable at that time.
He added: "I realise that these private investment activities from the past, which are now being presented as if they were happening today, damage KPMG and that is something I also deeply regret."

On his resigning statement Van Breukelen said the firm requires "a clear signal" that it’s "breaking from the recent past of misjudgement and errors".

KPMG Netherlands said the supervisory board will nominate a new chairman who will work on the implementation of KPMG’s governance structure, which should be in place by 1 October.

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