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KPMG financial services chief ousted after WhatsApp probe

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
KPMG head office in Paris, France. Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters

One of consultancy firm KPMG’s most senior partners has been dismissed after an internal investigation into his conduct.

Tim Howarth, head of UK financial services consulting, was dismissed over the weekend, according to the Financial Times which first reported his dismissal.

KPMG confirmed in a statement that Howarth had been dismissed after an internal investigation into “conduct issues.” No details were given but the FT reported that the probe related to WhatsApp messages.

Yahoo Finance UK understands the WhatsApp messages were sent internally to other KPMG staff and were not the sole component of the investigation. The contents of the messages and the type of misconduct investigated is not clear.

A spokesperson for KPMG said: “We hold all of our people to a very high standard and take swift and appropriate action against any individual whose behaviour contravenes the firm’s values.

“As part of this commitment, we can confirm conduct issues have been raised related to a partner and following an internal investigation and disciplinary panel, that partner has left the firm. Under our process the partner has appealed.”

KPMG declined to comment on the contents of the investigation or the appeals process.

READ MORE: MPs call for 'full' break up of 'big four' auditor 'cash-cows' after failures like Carillion

Tim Howarth told the FT: “I am surprised by the KPMG announcement of the outcome of a disciplinary panel, which is bizarre as the decision is under appeal.

“I have not been given the reason for that decision. I had already resigned from the KPMG partnership. I did not believe that the process was fair or would lead to a just outcome. There is no complainant and there were no formal allegations pursued by anyone.”

Howarth has been a partner at KPMG since 2005, according to his LinkedIn profile. He worked with “international banks, building societies, insurers, London Market, asset managers, brokers and retailers dealing in financial services products,” his profile states. He was previously a senior manager at the UK’s old financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

READ MORE: Patisserie Valerie auditor put in special measures by UK regulator

Howarth’s dismissal comes as the UK’s “Big Four” auditing and consultancy firms — KPMG, Deloitte, PwC, and EY — look to clean house after a series of scandals that tarnished the industries reputation.

MPs called for a “full structural break up” of the firms in April, saying there was a “crisis of trust in the audit industry” after high-profile failures such as BHS, Carillion, and Patisserie Valerie. A review by the auditor regulator earlier this year found quality is still poor in the sector. KPMG has been placed under tougher supervision to try and improve its quality after a series of fines and poor audits.

Howarth is the third senior KPMG manager to be investigated over conduct issues so far this year, according to the FT.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at@OscarWGrut.

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