Big Four firm KPMG is set to pay a reduced fine of 14.4 million pounds (U.S. $17.6 million) over its botched audits at collapsed construction company Carillion and software firm Regenersis.
During the first day of a two-day tribunal hearing Thursday, the U.K. Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said KPMG would face a “severe reprimand” over the “extremely serious” misconduct committed by employees.
The accounting firm had already admitted misconduct; misleading the regulator; and fabricating documents, including creating false minutes and retroactively editing spreadsheets to fool regulators, during previous hearings that began in January.
Those admissions helped reduce an originally proposed penalty of £20 million (U.S. $24.5 million), which would have been the highest FRC fine on record. Deloitte was penalized £15 million (then-U.S. $19.4 million) in September 2020 for its audit failures at former FTSE 100 software group Autonomy.
KPMG has also agreed to pay £4.3 million (U.S. $5.3 million) in costs.
The impending sanctions are the latest against KPMG in the United Kingdom, after the firm was fined £875,000 (then-U.S. $1.15 million) in March for audit failings in its work at bar chain Revolution Bars Group, £3 million (then-U.S. $4.1 million) in January for failings at alcohol retailer Conviviality, and £13 million (then-U.S. $18 million) in August for integrity and objectivity breaches at mattress company Silentnight.
The tribunal will also consider over the coming weeks penalties for five KPMG staff who were all found guilty of misconduct.
The FRC recommended Peter Meehan, the former KPMG partner in charge of the Carillion audit, be fined at least £400,000 (U.S. $490,000) and banned from the accounting and auditing sector for 15 years. Meehan has claimed he was the “patsy” for the questionable work carried out by his juniors.
The FRC wants Alistair Wright, Richard Kitchen, and Adam Bennett each fined £100,000 (U.S. $122,000) and excluded from the sector for 12 years. Pratik Paw, a more junior member of the team who was not even qualified at the time of the misconduct, has been recommended for a four-year exclusion and a £50,000 (U.S. $61,000) fine.
Stuart Smith, the partner in charge of the Regenersis audit, reached a confidential settlement with the FRC in January (reportedly a £150,000 fine and three-year ban).
In an emailed statement, Jon Holt, chief executive of KPMG UK, said, “We are deeply sorry that such serious misconduct occurred in our firm. It was unjustifiable and wrong. It was a violation of our processes and a betrayal of our values.
“I am saddened that a small number of former employees acted in such an inappropriate way, and it is right that they—and KPMG—now face serious regulatory sanctions as a result.”
He added, “This matter does not represent the wider culture or practice of our firm.”
Neither KPMG’s admissions nor the tribunal’s decisions are unlikely to draw a line under the scandal or prevent ongoing debate about what audit quality—and accountability—should look like in future.
The FRC is already investigating KPMG and former Carillion directors over the audit and preparation of Carillion’s 2016 accounts. KPMG is also facing 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.
This week’s Queen’s Speech saw the U.K. government make a commitment to publish legislation on reform of the audit market.