Big Four firm KPMG was fined 14.4 million pounds (U.S. $17.4 million) and severely reprimanded Monday for providing false and misleading information relating to its audits of construction company Carillion and software business Regenersis.
The U.K. Financial Reporting Council (FRC) further ordered the audit firm to appoint an independent reviewer to examine the effectiveness of its current audit quality review policies and procedures.
The former KPMG partner who led the audits, Peter Meehan, was fined £250,000 (U.S. $301,000), while three other auditors received fines ranging between £30,000 and £45,000 (U.S. $36,000 and $54,000). All four have been excluded from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, their professional body, for periods ranging 7-10 years.
Another junior auditor was severely reprimanded. A sixth employee settled hours before tribunal hearings began in January.
KPMG, which saw its fine reduced from a would-be record £20 million (U.S. $24.1 million) by admitting liability for its employees’ misconduct, also agreed to pay £3.95 million (U.S. $4.8 million) toward the FRC’s legal costs.
An independent disciplinary tribunal made findings of misconduct following a five-week hearing during January and February, and sanctions were determined after a hearing in May. Both the individual fines and bans from the profession are lower than those the FRC sought two months ago.
The tribunal found auditors working on the audit for Regenersis created a false or misleading audit working paper on goodwill and lied to FRC inspectors about when and in what circumstances the documents were created.
The tribunal also found auditors had created false minutes of meetings relating to international aspects of the audits for Carillion after the regulator had queried the low number of U.K. construction services contracts KPMG had interrogated. The auditors “pasted” words into post-audit documents to fill them out to satisfy inspectors.
They also falsely claimed to have carried out some aspects of audit work they did not perform.
“No accountant should require any education or training to realize that deliberately misleading anyone, but especially a regulator, is at least incompatible with integrity and, barring special circumstances, dishonest,” the FRC said.
In a statement, Jon Holt, chief executive of KPMG UK, said, “I accept the findings and sanctions of the tribunal in full. The behavior underlying this case was wrong and should never have happened. We reported it to our regulator as soon as we uncovered it, and we have cooperated fully with their investigation. Since then, we have worked hard and with complete transparency to our regulator to assure ourselves that the behavior of the individuals concerned does not reflect the wider culture of the firm.”
Elizabeth Barrett, the FRC’s executive counsel, stated, “This case underlines the need for all professional accountants, regardless of seniority, to be aware of their individual responsibility to act honestly and with integrity in all areas of their work.”
The FRC is still investigating KPMG and former Carillion directors over the audit and preparation of Carillion’s 2016 accounts. KPMG also faces a £1.3 billion (U.S. $1.6 billion) lawsuit from creditors for missing “red flags” that should have told it Carillion was insolvent more than two years before it collapsed.