PwC Australia chief faces senate fury over tax leak scandal

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) – PwC Australia’s chief executive apologised profusely to senators on Thursday for the leak of confidential tax documents, as he was grilled about the involvement of overseas partners in plans to win work from U.S. technology giants and other companies.

The “big four” firm has come under fire for months, following revelations a former partner leaked confidential government tax plans that were then used to win work with global companies looking to restructure their Australian tax affairs.

“I will apologise as many times as I need to to the Australian people,” CEO Kevin Burrowes said in his first appearance at a parliamentary inquiry.

“This behaviour should have been adequately investigated and addressed under past leadership but it wasn’t. The failures identified should never have been allowed to take place. What happened is totally unacceptable.”

Police are still investigating the breaches, which forced out the former CEO, led to the fire sale of its lucrative government consulting business for A$1 and entangled clients Google, Uber and Meta.

The global firm announced last month it had taken “appropriate action” against six staff outside Australia who received confidential information and should have raised questions. No confidential information was used for commercial gain, it said.

Burrowes told senators PwC Australia had not been provided details about the international investigation and did not know where the staff worked or how they had been disciplined.

An investigation by the U.S. accounting regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), is underway and PwC Australia is providing further information to the body, a senior executive told parliament.

The PCAOB has a history of fining firms outside the U.S. and in 2021 censured and fined KPMG Australia $450,000 for a test cheating scandal.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Sonali Paul)