Last Monday, PwC Australia’s Tom Seymour vacated his post as CEO after it came to light that he, along with a handful of other partners, received the low down on confidential government tax info that was then leveraged to advise clients on how to avoid upcoming tax changes. This has led to some less-than-favorable media coverage for PwC, government inquiries, and calls to reduce the government’s reliance on all paid consultants.
The plan as it stood last Monday was for Seymour, who has been a partner at PwC since 2002, to stay on at the firm and continue to provide the valuable insights that come from two decades of experience at the top. Per his LinkedIn, which is desperately in need of an update [archive]:
Tom has more than 25 years’ experience on taxation matters, particularly in the infrastructure, mining and energy industry sectors. Over his career Tom has led PwC teams advising on some of Australia’s largest public and private transactions. He has played a key role in PwC’s tax policy agenda, working with both state and federal governments seeking to improve Australia’s tax system, and has been a regular contributor to public debates on tax policy and broader economic reform.
It’s unfortunate that he likely won’t be remembered for any of that. Today, the firm said he won’t be sticking around after all and his last day will be September 30th.
Australian Financial Review has been all up on this story since day one — they broke it — and today’s news is no different. Somehow things have gotten worse:
The federal government is exploring options to try to ensure PwC Australia pays a “financial penalty” over the tax leaks scandal to punish it for using confidential tax information to drum up business, as the firm announced former chief executive Tom Seymour would retire early from the partnership at the end of September.
In other developments on Monday afternoon in what has become a global crisis for the firm, PwC appointed former [massive Australian telecommunications company] Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski to lead a review into the leaks.
Dr Switkowski will examine all aspects of PwC’s governance, accountability and culture and report back to the big four consulting firm by September. The firm has pledged to make a summary of his key recommendations public.
Dr. Switkowski has a hell of a resume: nuclear physicist, chairman of both NBN Co and Suncorp, a director of Healthscope, Oil Search and Tabcorp and the Chancellor of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. PwC Australia acting CEO Kristin Stubbins said that Dr. Switkowski “will have access to all the people and information he needs to conduct a rigorous review.”
“We are committed to learning from our mistakes and ensuring that we embrace the high standards of governance, culture and accountability that our people, clients and external stakeholders rightly expect,” said Stubbins.
It’s expected that more “retirements” will follow.
The following is purely idle uninformed speculation, but: It’s entirely possible that these enterprising PwC Australia partners reached out to their partners in other countries, like, say, the United States and jointly went to clients in those countries with their insider info. Wouldn’t those non-Australian partners be bad boyz too?
One thing is not being discussed at all in the PWC saga. The tax discussions for which Peter Collins got banned happened in 2014. I.E 8 years plus ago. So the following issues arise:
– why did the previous Govt kept it swept under the carpet?
– did PWC manage to lobby to keep it quiet? If so how?
– PWC Aus and global milked this info for 8 plus years not just now? That is a lot of tax the multinationals may be claimed for!
The issue is far more damaging than it is seen.