PwC executives step down in wake of tax leaks scandal

10 May 2023 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
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The government tax scandal has triggered a raft of senior leadership changes within PwC, with Financial Advisory managing partner Pete Calleja and Chief Strategy & Risk Officer Sean Gregory the latest senior partners to step down in the wake of the scandal.

The fallout from PwC’s government tax policy leak saga continues, with two more senior leaders the latest to resign from their posts.

Pete Calleja, managing partner of Financial Advisory, and company veteran Sean Gregory, who was promoted to the role of Chief Strategy, Risk and Reputation Officer shortly after the installation of former CEO Tom Seymour in 2020. Seymour stood down as CEO earlier this week, replaced by interim chief Kristin Stubbins.

PwC executives step down in wake of tax leaks scandal

After initial defiance, and what seemed like an unhealthy dose of denial, Seymour ultimately succumbed to the increasing pressure from multiple quarters since it was revealed former PwC international tax lead Peter Collins breached confidentiality agreements on planned government tax legislation in order to court clients, with up to 40 or more local partners, mostly still unnamed, said to have been aware of the gross ethical failings at the time.

While Collins departed PwC last year, and subsequently had his practicing license terminated by the industry watchdog, the ongoing future at the firm for the latest trio of fall guys is still unclear, although according to reports they all remain as members of the partnership for now. Yet, the latest resignations have come amid continuing cross-party calls from a number of senior politicians for further action to be taken, with Labor senator Deborah O’Neill among the most vociferous.

“We have had a resignation from Seymour as chief executive. He remains a partner,” O’Neill stated under privilege, describing the affair as a “major cancer” on vital national processes. “It’s a little breathtaking to think that people might think that it’s business as usual … what are they doing to remove those individuals from the firm and/or the profession? No more obfuscation, no more hiding …let’s get to the truth of who’s involved, and let’s see where they are.”

The fallen
Gregory, who sources have said wasn’t involved in the breach but accepted responsibility as the firm’s current risk management leader, has been with PwC closing in on three decades (originally joining in London), and previously served as chief operating officer for four years from April 2016 – a period which overlapped with the breach. Prior to that, Gregory was head of infrastructure and real estate and managing partner for deals within PwC’s financial services practice.

Also a member of PwC’s executive board, Calleja has most recently headed the firm’s broad financial advisory wing, overseeing around 3,000 partners and staff across Tax, Deals, Legal, Infrastructure, and the firm’s recently assembled Energy Transition practice. A tax partner since at least 2014, the period during which PwC was advising the government on multinational anti-avoidance policy, Calleja is said to have thought it appropriate to step down ahead of the upcoming internal inquiry.

Reinforcements
According to the latest reporting from the AFR, interim CEO Kirsten Stubbins is already moving swiftly behind the scenes, with partners Tony O’Malley and Rob Silverwood since appointed as Gregory and Calleja’s respective replacements.

Another partner, Nicole Salimbeni, has been reportedly tapped to lead a governance and structures reform program, while law firm Linklaters has been engaged to conduct the international portion of the independent PwC review.

O’Malley, whose new role was given as ‘chief risk and ethics officer’, has been with PwC since 2014 (having previously served as Australian managing partner of King & Wood Malleson), and was appointed global legal business solutions leader in 2019.

Silverwood meanwhile steps up from his role as deals leader, having been at the firm for around 25 years. An experienced risk consultant, Salimbeni has spent upwards of 15 years at PwC, and currently leads its financial services and consumer business.