PwC releases names of those involved in tax scandal to senate enquiry

06 June 2023 Consultancy.com.au 3 min. read
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Under fire professional services firm PwC has handed over a list of staff involved in its government tax scandal to a senate enquiry, but is still attempting to keep the names of those still at the firm under wraps.

Having received widespread criticism for its evasive response to date, professional services firm PwC has finally succumbed to sustained political pressure to reveal the sixty-plus staff directly and indirectly caught up in its government tax policy scandal – even going so far as to publicly name several of the partners involved, albeit only those who have already left the firm.

PwC releases names of those involved in tax scandal to senate enquiry

In a memo sent to the firm’s partnership, acting CEO Kristin Stubbins stated that PwC has now complied with requests from the investigating senate committee to hand over the names of those who had received emails containing privileged information relating to the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law (MAAL), including partners who are said to have been directly involved in the confidentiality breach and a number currently stood down pending investigation.

“We’ve heard the calls from our stakeholders to release the names of those who were responsible for confidentiality breaches and we’ve been working as quickly as possible to determine that and to disclose these names to the Senate per their request,” Stubbins said in a press statement.

“It is important for us to respect the ongoing investigations and legal processes to ensure this matter is investigated appropriately, and that is what we are doing.”

Stubbins, however, has so far only openly identified four of those alleged to have been culprits, all former partners, including instigator Peter Collins. Another, one-time senior tax partner Neil Fuller who retired in 2019, had already been outed for his role in pitching PwC’s anti-MAAL proposition to big tech companies in the US, while the last name divulged is that of veteran solicitor Michael Bersten, in what strikes as wading into rather treacherous waters.

The fourth former partner, now DLA Piper partner Paul McNab, has hit back with a strongly worded response on LinkedIn. “It is noteworthy that the firm has taken this action to name former partners only. I had no forewarning or opportunity to respond. For the record, I was not involved in any Treasury consultations regarding MAAL where confidential information was discussed. In addition, I trusted that the information shared with me as a partner of the firm would comply with any confidentiality agreements that may have been in place.”

Despite his denials as to any culpability, it has been reported that McNab has since left DLA Piper by mutual consent, the latest executive to be professionally impacted amid the ongoing fall-out. In addition to CEO Tom Seymour, former PwC chief strategy & risk officer Sean Gregory and financial advisory head Pete Calleja have also stepped down from their roles, joined last week by board and risk committee chairs Tracey Kennair and Paddy Carney.

In a familiar sequence, PwC has once again been accused of obfuscation and stalling in not outright releasing the list of names, given that it will now be up to the senate committee whether they are ultimately published. “PwC should release these names themselves, and they should do it publicly,” stated Labor senator Deborah O’Neill, who is leading the probe. “In my opinion, this is an attempt to use the cloak of the Senate to maintain confidentiality.”

Meanwhile, Stubbins has defended the firm’s approach, and requested of the Senate that it keeps the names suppressed for now. “The reason for the length of this list is because an email, which did not indicate that the information it contained was confidential, was sent to two large mailing groups. It does not follow that these people were responsible for or knowingly involved in a breach. For that reason, it would be unfair for those names to be released.”