October 2, 2022

PwC Partner Who Blamed Staff for Audit Failure Asks That You Not Misinterpret His Tiny Notes As an Attempt To Bury His Error

If you've been following the Centro shareholder lawsuit against PwC, you know that the partner in charge of the engagement, Stephen Cougle, wasn't exactly jumping at the chance to take responsibility for any of the audit team's shortcomings. If you were to ask Mr. Coulge – and Centro lawyers did – he'd say the person responsible for a multi-billion dollar mistake is Brad Duggan, "supervising staff" for that area of the audit. Under the bus you thrown, Brad.

Blamestorming aside, Centro lawyers still had more questions for Stephen Cougle, including why he would document one of the errors in tiny font WAY at the back of the audit workpapers: 

On his fifth day under cross-examination during a class action in the Federal Court, Stephen Cougle also denied he tried to ''bury'' one of the errors by putting it in one of the small-print notes at the back of the final accounts. He repeatedly told the court yesterday he was not responsible for auditing Centro's compliance with the Australian Stock Exchange listing rules, so when the error emerged in August 2007 and two senior Centro managers said the company did not plan to disclose it via a statement to the exchange he began to ''ponder'' what else might be done. ''I just thought it was something where I was being constructively proactive in making a suggestion to them [about disclosing it],'' Mr Cougle said. […] ''I did not try to 'bury' it,'' he said ''I was one of the people trying to do the opposite.''
Plus, you know how it is at the end of the engagement when you're pressed for time and the LAST THING you want to do is re-create an entire workpaper. Sure, you might have to write in a tiny size (upside down at the top of the page) that renders it completely illegible but when you're desperate, sometimes you have to sacrifice a tidy workpaper (or an underling) to sufficiently cover your ass.
 

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