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Female KPMG partners quit over firm's response to complaints

Two of KPMG’s female partners have quit in protest at how the firm dealt with alleged bullying by a senior male partner

According to the Financial Times, the pair, Maggie Brereton and Ina Kjaer, resigned in February. They were highly respected at KPMG, with 40 years’ experience at the firm between them, and were considered to be two of its most talented partners.

The firm led an investigation into concerns raised over a senior male partner’s conduct and communication style, which were made to the partner’s line manager and via a whistleblowing hotline.

The Times reported that the partner in question is Sanjay Thakkar, head of deal advisory at KPMG UK. A spokesperson for the firm declined to comment on individual cases, but did not dispute the information uncovered by The Times.

The investigation resulted in Thakkar apologising to employees and agreeing to have coaching in leadership.  

Brereton and Kjaer, however, resigned to protest that the firm had not gone further in its action against him. He currently remains in the same position at KPMG.

A spokesperson for KPMG said, “From the moment they join the firm, we make it very clear to our people how vital it is to consider how their words and tone will be received by everyone in the room when they are communicating.”

They confirmed that the senior partner had apologised and undergone coaching, and said that “additional measures” had been put in place to monitor “the relevant improvements”.

In response to the news, Clare Murray, managing partner for employment and partnership solicitors CM Murray, said, “The response of a half-hearted apology and some non-specific management training is rather old school now and is rarely regarded as an adequate response to serious allegations. Women are voting with their feet when they feel the firm’s response is inadequate.

“The expectation of many complainants is that if they take the (not inconsiderable) professional risk of complaining about a colleague’s behaviour, there needs to be a genuinely meaningful response by their firm to those complaints. That response though also needs to be appropriate and proportionate to the findings in the investigation and to respect the position and welfare of the accused as well as the victim.”

The KPMG spokesperson noted that, “while aspects of the [male partner’s] behaviour required improvement, they did not amount to bullying”.

“For the avoidance of doubt, KPMG does not tolerate bullying of any sort. When we receive reports of behaviour that contravene our policy we have a set investigation process and where allegations are upheld, we have taken a range of actions up to and including dismissal,” they added.

All of the Big Four remain under scrutiny following multiple allegations of inappropriate behaviour among senior staff.

At the end of 2018, all four firms publically admitted that they had dismissed multiple senior partners for bullying and inappropriate behaviour.

KPMG announced that seven of its partners had been fired in the space of four years.

In the same timespan, Deloitte dismissed 20 of its UK partners for inappropriate behaviour which included sexual harassment.


Originally published in Economia on 30 May 2019.