“I think the whole industry should simply do away with any age-based retirement policy. I don’t think older partners perform any differently. These days people still have got a lot to offer as they get older. They’ve got a lot of experience, they’ve got a lot of know-how. They can be up with trends in industry and technology. They can continue to be good advisers to clients and mentors.”
— Colin Brown, a former audit partner at Deloitte Australia, told the Australian Financial Review when asked about the Big 4’s policies of forcing partners to retire once they reach a certain age.
Brown took Deloitte Australia to court for age discrimination over the firm’s mandatory partner retirement policy. He sought more than $3 million in damages after alleging Deloitte makes its partners retire at age 62, in breach of the Age Discrimination Act. Brown and Deloitte reached a multimillion-dollar settlement in June, according to AFR. As part of the settlement, he had to leave Deloitte.
Brown, now 65, joined Deloitte Australia in June 2014 at age 58 after being headhunted the year before by then-CEO Cindy Hook while working for a Deloitte Global member firm, AFR reported. In his lawsuit, he claimed Deloitte has a policy that
expects forces its partners “to retire in or around May following their 62nd birthday,” a requirement that he said breached the Age Discrimination Act, according to AFR. But Brown insisted that the mandatory retirement policy wasn’t included in the partnership agreement he signed:
His appointment was preceded by several months of interviews with Deloitte Australia’s leadership, including meetings where Mr Brown was told he would be staffed across multiple audit clients – a commitment that usually lasts 10 years.
He was also provided with a copy of the firm’s partnership agreement which, according to his statement of claim, “deals with expulsion from the partnership, and other forms of termination or retirement from the partnership, but does not make any provision for retirement on account of age”.
New Deloitte Australia CEO Adam Powick announced last week the firm would stop “expecting” partners to retire when they turn 62, less than six weeks after Brown settled his case with the firm, according to AFR. In addition, KPMG and EY have both removed age-based clauses—58 and 60 years old, respectively—from their partnership agreements.
PwC in Australia is the last Big 4 firm standing, as current and former PwC partners have told AFR that the firm continues to have an understanding that most partners will retire when they reach 55, a policy that the firm has denied.
Age no barrier to keeping up with trends, says ex-Deloitte partner [Australian Financial Review]