PwC Australia sacks eight partners over tax leak scandal

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) – PwC Australia has fired eight partners including its former chief executive as part of an internal investigation into the leak of confidential government tax plans by a former partner, the firm said on Monday.

The investigation found multiple examples where the “misuse of confidential information” breached professional standards and also identified “a failure of leadership and governance” to address the breaches, PwC said in a statement.

“Accountability is critical to improving our culture and based on our investigation to date, it is clear that the conduct of a number of partners fell short of what was expected of them. They are now being held accountable for their misconduct,” acting CEO Kristin Stubbins said in the statement.

The sackings mark the latest move by PwC to contain the fallout from a scandal, after a former partner who had been advising the Australian government on new tax laws targeting corporate tax avoidance shared confidential drafts with colleagues which were used to drum up business around the world.

The eight partners, who have left or are in the process of leaving, include former chief executive Tom Seymour, who resigned in May after admitting he had received emails containing confidential information about the government’s tax plans.

Seymour and the other seven partners named by PwC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Three of the partners were singled out for actions that “failed to meet their professional responsibilities”.

The other five, including the head of the firm’s financial services division, were removed because of failures to prevent the actions or “hold others accountable for their behaviours”.

“This enabled poor behaviours to persist with no accountability. These behaviours are not, and never have been, acceptable under PwC’s standards,” said the statement from PwC, one of the world’s “big four” accounting firms.

Stubbins last week promised severe consequences for those involved in a scandal that has cost the firm major clients and forced it to spin off its lucrative public sector consulting business for A$1.

The firm said the investigation is still continuing in some areas.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Sonali Paul)