It is said we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So who we do business with matters.
In London on Friday, EY lost a $10.8 million court case against Amjad Rihan, a whistleblower. In his ruling, High Court Judge Timothy Kerr stated EY had “allowed measures designed to obscure the audit findings.” Of the managing partner for EY in Europe, Judge Kerr said “[he] struck me as uninterested in questions of professional ethics.”
EY expressed its surprise and disappointment in the result, adding it will attempt to appeal the judgment.
In the case, EY’s client was a Dubai-based precious metals dealer, Kaloti Jewellery International, and allegations arose “Kaloti was knowingly dealing in gold bullion smuggled out of Morocco coated in silver to deceive the Moroccan authorities and in 2012, Kaloti had taken part in cash transactions in gold involving $5.2 billion in cash.”
Judge Kerr stated, “These facts gave rise to a reasonable suspicion Kaloti was involved in money laundering as the defendants [EY] accept.” That statement was proven when journalists traced €100 million (U.S. $109 million) in drug money to Kaloti.
Having reported adverse findings to the appropriate regulatory body in Dubai, the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), Rihan was subsequently put under improper pressure to change the findings: “reduce to vanishing point the visibility of the Morocco gold and cash transactions.”
Subsequently, EY leaders allegedly helped Kaloti and DMCC to conceal the original findings, “improperly lending EY’s name [brand] to a flagrantly misleading assurance reporting process.” Rihan issued legal proceedings to protect himself.
As the case went to trial, it presents an opportunity to learn. Having read the full judgment, it is evident EY witnesses were prepared for the task of giving their own evidence [in chief]. In other words, they told their story, but they did not stand up to cross examination, which led Judge Kerr to dismiss their credibility.
I have had the good fortune to meet with Rihan and some first-class, EY anti-money laundering professionals. I posit my brand is in good shape, likewise, Rihan, we spend a lot of time with some good people. In contrast, what does this case do to the brand of EY and, more pointedly, those who spend time with EY as clients?
Interestingly, Judge Kerr makes several references to the brand of EY, thus over the coming days I will provide some commentary and assessment of the case as well as brand protection. Stay tuned.