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May 30, 2019

Two female partners walk out of KPMG in protest

Two of KPMG’s star female partners have left the firm over the way it responded to allegations of bullying by a senior male partner. The Financial Times reports that Maggie Brereton and Ina Kjaer both resigned in February in protest over the way KPMG had handled the complaints. The newspaper notes that the senior male partner at the centre of the furore is still in the same position at KPMG.

Brereton ‘s LinkedIn profile describes her as now being ‘on garden leave’ after a 19 year career with KPMG and most recent positions as Head of Transaction Services and a member of the board of KPMG UK. Ina Kjaer, with 16 years’ experience of managing cross-border deals, was a partner within the firm’s integration and separation team in the UK.

An investigation into the senior partner’s conduct had been carried out following concerns raised to his line manager and through a whistleblowing hotline. The FT said the investigation resulted in the partner apologising to employees and agreeing to a programme of coaching in leadership.

Clare Murray, Founder and Managing Partner of specialist employment and partnership law advisors CM Murray commented: “The response of a half-hearted apology and some non-specific management training is rather old school now and is rarely regarded as an adequate response to serious allegations. Women are voting with their feet when they feel the firm’s response is inadequate.

“The expectation of many complainants is that if they take the (not inconsiderable) professional risk of complaining about a colleague’s behaviour, that there needs to be a genuinely meaningful response by their firm to those complaints. That response also though needs to be appropriate and proportionate to the findings in the investigation and to respect the position and welfare of the accused as well as the victim."

In December 2018 it was revealed that Deloitte, KPMG and EY had between them dismissed 32 partners for inappropriate conduct over the previous four years while PwC said it had sacked five in the preceding three years.

Clare Murray adds: “Firms are still finding their way on how to eradicate bullying and harassment, and there is still much to be done to encourage reporting by victims and bystanders, to prevent victimisation and protect the wellbeing of complainants, accused and key witnesses alike, and to ensure wider cultural change that recognises that harassment and bullying have no place in the modern workplace and will not be tolerated.”

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