Ed. note: This post was written exclusively for Going Concern by a KPMG veteran employee that wished to remain anonymous.
Let me start by saying I barely know Scott London. I emailed him a couple of times. I may have met him once in person (obviously it didn’t leave much of an impression). That was the extent of my interaction with him. In that limited time he seemed like a nice enough guy but that’s all I know about him. That statement was echoed by a few people I know who did work with him when this story broke. The general consensus was that it sucks that this happened to a nice guy.
You have to understand, though — on those first few days we didn’t know the details. There was one rather short statement on our internal site from leadership about it and some news on a couple of websites (including our favorite accounting tabloid). All we knew was that were some loose lips about client information and that information was used to make some money insider trading. It surprised me that someone at that level could allow something like that to happen but I didn’t find it unbelievable. People drink with their friends, chat about stuff and things might have gotten said that shouldn’t have. Then a friend that shouldn’t have done something did. Stupid? Yes. Unbelievable? No. I was more surprised that it was a more senior partner rather than a younger partner or even a senior manager.
Then the facts started to emerge along with the actual complaint. The complaint was like a bad movie script. It was hard for me to read. The blatancy of what he was doing, acting like it was no big deal and they’d never get caught. It all seemed unbelievable.
The part that hit closest to home was the reference to the staff sending him the guidance so he could share it with his buddy Shaw. Any of us over the years could have been on the other end of that phone call or email asking to pass along the press release with the updated guidance. It’s not an unusual request from a partner. In my years at the firm I’ve worked for many partners and have gotten to know many more in various forums. Overall, it’s a small percentage of the total partnership but I would be shocked if any of them would even come close to doing such a thing as Mr. London did.
It seems trite to point to our ethics and independence trainings as guiding our way but the common sense of it is that keeping confidential client information, well, confidential is pretty much the heart of our jobs. I think 99% of the people who work in an audit firm get that and subscribe to it. It’s part of the reason why when I talked to some of these partners they were so angry that their peer could betray that trust and call this shitstorm down upon them.
The most interesting part of the saga thus far has been the internal PR. Unlike what many people might expect in terms of massive damage control it has been simple and levelheaded. We had two short articles on our internal site which echoed the statements made public about the clients we were resigning from and our intentions to bring legal action against Mr. London.
Beyond that, there has only been one other communication and to me it was one of the simplest and most powerful items I’ve seen come across the email in response to a firm event. Our chairman [John Veihmeyer] sent a simple email, just a few paragraphs, not even on the normal firm letterhead with his picture. Attached to the email was a copy of the complaint. In simple terms, the email said, “Everyone read this complaint. Read what this guy did. Know that we don’t stand for it and know that we won’t tolerate it.” No BS, no fluff and no leaving it up to us to read the complaint on Going Concern. I’ve had a chance to have some candid conversations with John Veihmeyer before and this email reflected those. Pundits can pick it apart but for me it was the kind of response I wanted from my firm.
The worst part about all of this for someone in the firm is that it gives the pundits and Big 4 haters more arrows in their quiver when taking jabs at the profession and specifically the firm. Public accounting isn’t the best job in the world but it isn’t the worst either. I’ve hated this job and this firm many times over the years but I’ve seen some of the corporate “opportunities” and those aren’t hot shit either.
So I’m still here unlike Mr. London and I can with conviction say that I’ve never done anything as irresponsible as he did. It’s a bad time for our firm to be sure but unlike other actions that might be more indicative of a poor corporate culture I honestly believe this was one bad apple in an otherwise good bushel.