Do y’all remember way back in February when then KPMG UK chair Bill Michael had to resign after he told staff to stop moaning in a virtual town hall? A few hundred KPMGers were in (virtual) attendance for Michael’s rant which included observations about how staff are a bunch of whiny little bitches who don’t know how good they have it and how lockdown isn’t even that bad.
In case your memory is as bad as mine, here’s a direct quote of Michael’s inspiring words from the BBC (and a video here if you’re so inclined):
“I have spoken to a lot of partners, and people at all sorts of levels, where it almost feels like this [pandemic] is being done to them. Well, you can’t play the role of victim unless you’re sick. And I hope you’re not sick, and you’re not ill, and if you’re not, take control of your life, don’t sit there and moan about it.”
Someone leaked the entire thing to the media which led to an investigation which led to Michael quitting and never being able to show his face in a virtual room of KPMG grunts ever again. In other words, a big ole mess.
Fast-forward all these months later and now the firm is trying to stop an embarrassing incident like that from happening again. No, not by double-checking that future chairpersons aren’t filled with vitriol toward underlings that could be unleashed at any moment, but by asking staff not to share any such incidents with the media going forward.
The company has been discouraging staff from leaking information to the press since Michael’s exit, Dr Kay Swinburne, KPMG’s UK vice chair for financial services, told Financial News.
“We’ve all been asked to make sure that our teams understand the damage you can do to us as a firm,” she said, and admitted that the auditing giant had “become a bit of a leaky sieve”.
Look, clearly I’m biased here because the entire foundation of this website was built on all the eyes and ears on the ground informing us of the seedy happenings within public accounting firms. That “leaky sieve” is the whole reason we’re here otherwise we’d have little to talk about other than Vault listings, firm press releases, and the odd accountant in the news getting busted for taking upskirt pics of strangers. What do you suppose would have happened to Bill Michael had his comments been made not in a virtual townhall in 2021 but in some conference room in 2001 back when there were no Reddits or Fishbowls or blog comment sections in which to discuss things like this? Something tells me he wouldn’t have been forced to scurry away with his tail between his legs like the shifty raccoon who rifles through your trash in the middle of the night when you flick your porch light on.
KPMG hopes that encouraging staff to use the whistleblowing hotline will “enhance our speak up culture” per comments a spokesperson made to City A.M., so in other words if you see something, say something. Just, you know, make sure you don’t say something to people outside the firm lest they get a repeat of the Michael incident.
Let’s be real, this isn’t national security we’re talking about here. Bringing egregious behavior on the part of firm leadership to the attention of the media so those responsible can be held accountable isn’t Edward Snowden revealing to the entire world that the NSA knows what kind of porn you watch. You know the only ones hurt by these leaks? The firm. And that’s why they’re asking staff to keep their traps shut the next time it happens.
You know where we stand on the issue. If you see something, say something. And screencapture video of it if you can.