KPMG UK Chairman Bill Michael has resigned after controversial remarks he made during a virtual town hall meeting offended several employees and were subsequently made public.
During the virtual meeting Monday, Michael told employees to stop “moaning” about the coronavirus pandemic. “You can’t play the role of victim unless you’re sick—and I hope you’re not sick, you’re not ill. And if you’re not, take control of your life. Don’t sit there and moan about it,” he said. He went on to say unconscious bias is “complete crap” and that there was “no such thing.”
After several employees expressed offense to his off-the-cuff remarks, and these remarks further became public, Michael, who headed up the U.K. firm since 2017, voluntarily announced his resignation Friday, calling his position as chairman “untenable” in the aftermath of what he said. KPMG has since removed Michael’s biography from its Website.
The compliance lesson here is best summed up in a LinkedIn post by Sarah Wallace, a partner at Constantine Law: “Internal investigations are not ‘fireside chats.’ They can signal the beginning of the end,” she wrote. “Firms are answerable and accountable to regulators, the public, and their clients. When a furor is brewing, a firm’s immediate response to the crisis will be scrutinized, as well as the protagonist’s actions. Regulatory, legal and reputational risk is everything.”
Board Member Bina Mehta will take over as acting chair at KPMG UK, while Mary O’Connor, head of clients and markets, assumes Michael’s day-to-day responsibilities.