Hubert Barth, head of EY’s Germany practice for the past five years, will step down and take on a “new role at the European level,” the firm announced Thursday. The move is part of a broader reshuffling of its management team as EY seeks to restore its tarnished reputation following missteps it made leading up to the collapse of payment processor Wirecard.
Henrik Ahlers and Jean-Yves Jégourel will jointly lead the firm, EY announced. Ahlers has been managing tax partner for Germany, Switzerland, and Austria since 2018, and Jégourel currently is EY Global’s assurance vice chair, professional practice.
EY Germany has been forced to play musical chairs among its management team after Wirecard filed for insolvency in June 2020, acknowledging a “prevailing likelihood” that it fraudulently booked $2 billion in assets. EY refused to sign off on the company’s 2019 financial report after “discovering” a gaping hole on its balance sheet, even though an EY employee reportedly blew the whistle internally on Wirecard in 2016, four years before the company collapsed.
“EY is aware of the loss of trust caused by the Wirecard case,” the firm said in a statement. “It is EY’s top priority to help clarify the Wirecard case and restore trust that has been lost.”
As part of these efforts, EY has established a new “Trust in Quality” initiative intended “to strengthen trust in the audit work.” The program focuses on the support of an expanded critical basic attitude, a questioning of systems and processes, and strengthening governance. “This also includes expanded education and training programs, the strengthening of digital skills, and the establishment of exam technologies of the future, as well as the establishment of a new risk committee,” EY said.
Leading this new program is Karen Somes, a partner at EY Germany who has been with the firm for more than 25 years. In this role, she will evaluate the measures and planned changes developed with the program and advise EY on its further development, the firm said.
“Nothing is more important to EY than the quality of our work,” said Peter Wollmert, member of the German management and head of the EY EMEIA examination practice, in a translated statement. “The quality of the final exam is critical to EY’s reputation and overall success. We are aware that considerable efforts are required to ensure the long-term trust of our clients, other market participants, and the public in the quality of the final audit.”
In addition, EY Germany said it has set up a high-ranking independent expert commission, which was “appointed by the supervisory board in coordination with the global EY management and is directly linked to it.” Serving as chairman of the commission is Germany’s former Finance Minister, Theo Waigel, who from 2009-12 held a similar monitoring role at Siemens following its corruption scandal. Assuming the role of deputy chairwoman is Brigitte Zypries, Germany’s former Federal Minister of Economics and Justice.