The US lobby group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has called for Grant Thornton International to cut its ties with its Iranian member firm in a letter addressed to chief executive Edward Nusbaum.
With no Big Four firms in Iran at present, the UANI said that international associations and networks with representation in Iran must sever all ties, "as the presence of these branded accounting firms in Iran lends a sense of security to multinational businesses that partner with Iranian entities and masks the serious fiduciary and reputational risks that most responsible businesses would otherwise refuse to accept".
"At a time when the international community is working to economically isolate Iran in response to the regime’s illicit nuclear activities, the provision of accounting, auditing and other professional services by these accounting networks and associations is a boon to the Iranian economy and facilitates international commerce in Iran, often by creating a veneer of credibility and transparency that encourages foreign investment," the UANI wrote in the letter and on their website.
In 2010 the UANI was successful in pressuring KPMG, the last remaining Big Four firm in Iran at the time, into ending its affiliation with Iranian firm Bayat Rayan.
The UANI claimed that KPMG had profited from US government contracts worth $1.2bn and, therefore, they should not also profit from doing business in Iran.
At the time KPMG publicly said that, "as a result of serious and escalating concerns expressed by UANI and others, KPMG International has terminated Bayat Rayan’s membership in the KPMG network, effective 30 March 2010".
Three years after the KPMG departure the UANI seems to have set itself a new target as it says it will contact all eight remaining global networks and associations with full or correspondent member firms in the country and call for them to leave Iran.
International Accounting Bulletin received confirmation that Grant Thornton International did receive the letter.
"We received a letter from UANI and are investigating the matter. We will respond to them directly," a statement from the firm read.
The UANI is a US lobby group headed by several influential political figures, including Mark Wallace a former US ambassador to the United Nations and president George Bush’s deputy campaign manager in 2004.
The lobby group is known for targeting multinational companies such as General Electric, Huntsman, Caterpillar, Ingersoll Rand, Porsche, Hyundai, Huawei, Royal Dutch Shell, Terex and Siemens to end their business dealings in Iran.
The actions of UANI raise concern in relation to the quality and independence of the accounting profession in Iran and indicates just how powerful political intervention and pressures on business can be.