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Exodus Watch: 600+ in Grant Thornton’s Hong Kong Office Move to BDO

What in the name of Stephen Chipman’s dubious accent is going on here? Why would a firm shut down an office in an emerging financiaosing six hundred partners and professionals to one of their rivals?

If you ask BDO’s Hong Kong Chairman and CEO Albert Au Siu-cheung, it has nothing to do with the disappearance of former GT managing partner Gabriel Azedo. It’s simply a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that found its way into the lap of BDO:


From the South China Morning Post:

“The opportunity to have a massive admission of so much established accounting talent is rare. This will strengthen BDO’s competitiveness in the local accounting industry,” Au said. “This will also create a bigger mid-tier firm allowing listed companies a choice for auditing and professional services in future.”

Au said the recruitment would be completed by the end of this year, and all staff and partners would become part of BDO, while Grant Thornton would cease operation in Hong Kong. Grant Thornton’s clients – including 130 listed companies audited by the firm – had been notified of the change and most agreed to make the switch to BDO, Au said.

Au said lawsuits involving Grant Thornton’s missing boss, former managing partner Gabriel Ricardo Dias-Azedo, were not a factor in the move.

This is a head scratcher for sure. Although this isn’t the first time a major firm has had mysterio issues in H to the K. Last year, Ernst & Young’s office was raided for the firm’s involvement with Akai that ultimately resulted in the firm paying a rumored $400 million to settle the case.

We reached out to PR at Grant Thornton’s International office but since they’ve probably been at the pub for hours already, we’re still awaiting a response.

We did find this announcement from Grant Thornton International which states that the firm has a new “member firm” in HK but nothing about the movement of the 600 professionals:

Grant Thornton has announced the appointment of a new member firm in Hong Kong. The new practice, set up by Grant Thornton China, will begin trading as Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong but will adopt the name “Grant Thornton” in due course. The new firm will be led by Daniel Lin, an established and highly regarded member of the accounting profession in Hong Kong.

[…]

The new firm plans to have a staff of over 100 people within 12 months. Significantly, it will be fully integrated with Grant Thornton China and be part of a network of 10 offices providing seamless access to 65 partners and over 1,500 professionals across mainland China and Hong Kong.

Ed Nusbaum, chief executive officer of Grant Thornton International explains, “Grant Thornton has long been committed to a strategy of an integrated approach to serving clients across the China market, including Hong Kong. This appointment of Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong is a vital step in that strategy and our member firms, now over 100 in number, look forward to working with their new colleagues in Hong Kong.”

Okay, so a “vital step” includes the closing of an office the defection of 600 professionals and “130 listed companies” for an office with less than 100 people total? Can anyone – looking straight at you Ed – explain this? Since he’s pretty hard to nail down we’ll take your theories for now.

Accounting News Roundup: The Debate Over IRS-prepared Tax Returns; KPMG HK Senior Manager Arrested for Bribery; CFOs Starting to See Job Options | 04.09.10

Should the IRS Fill Out Our Tax Returns? [TaxVox]
Some say, YES! At the very least the Service could get the ball rolling, “by filling in your wage income, exemptions, and standard deduction and perhaps even figuring some other deductions and credits. This…could be a huge benefit for those who file Forms 1040A and 1040EZ.” Naturally, the taxpayer has to approve the return prior the actual “filing” of it but this would potentially assist millions of Americans who are otherwise stumped by 1040s of any stripe.


The other side of this argument is that it will delay refunds:

Bob Weinberger, a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security and a former top executive at the tax prep firm H&R Block. Bob counters that the “fatal flaw” of such a system is that it could delay refunds for months. For many taxpayers, Bob argues, getting a check from IRS in April is a key to their annual financial planning, and postponing that refund would generate a huge backlash. Bob also said such a system would be a huge drain on IRS resources.

While this likely true, the root of the problem is the “check from the IRS is key to financial planning” part. If these people need the money so bad, they should adjust their withholding so they don’t pay in so much during the year. Perhaps that’s not an easy concept to grasp, so if we say “You’re giving the government an interest-free loan for 12 months,” that will help.

HK charges KPMG man with bribery [FT]
Leung Sze-chit, a senior manager in the Hong Kong office, has been arrested on corruption charges after offering a co-worker a $12,280 bribe related to a client’s IPO. The FT reports that the firm learned of the situation via its internal hotline, “After investigation, the member of staff in question was suspended by KPMG and a report was then made . . . to the relevant authorities.” So yes, to answer some of you, people do call those internal hotlines.

CFO Job Options Opening Up [FINS]
After hunkering down for the last couple of years or so, CFOs are starting to see some new job options. FINS reports that “Some felt loyalty to organizations in financial straits, while others hesitated to jump given uncertainty about potential landmines at other companies.” Now that growth is slowly creeping back, “some companies are likely to find they need a different type of executive in the role. And some CFOs may even find themselves in line for positions higher up the corporate ladder.”

Stephen Chipman Begrudgingly Wore Green on St. Patrick’s Day

Stephen Chipman’s blog post from last week got lost in the shuffle but you’ll be happy to know that you didn’t miss anything. Our lack of enthusiasm is not shared however, as the daily grind for a globe-trotting CEO seems to be enough to entertain some of the GT faithful. How do we know?

He shared one reader/fan’s thoughts this week, that’s how, “So, you really don’t just drink coffee and check e-mail!” While SC neither confirmed nor denied this particular allegation, one could assume that this is a big part of his day.

Moving on…Of the near 1,000 words in this week’s masterpiece, the only thing really worth mentioning is that the GT CEO spent his first St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago last week. And guess what Chi-town? You didn’t let him down; Steve-o was impressed.

This is my first time living in Chicago to experience St. Patrick’s Day; it was very interesting to see the Chicago community’s commitment to this holiday. Dutifully I wore my green tie, in respect of St. Patrick, which was very challenging to do for an Englishman. Nevertheless, I thought it appropriate…even though the Irish did beat the English at rugby a couple of weeks ago in the Six Nations Championships…which was a crushing disappointment…but I digress.

Digression! He’s really getting the hang of this. Maybe Chip’s blog readership is increasing?

The real question is what did SC see on St. Pat’s that piqued his interest? The green river? The turnout at the parade? The vast number of people vomiting in the streets? More details Stevey!

On the biz-nass front, SC did have a conference call with all the GT global leaders and he had to get up bright and early to get on the call at 8 am Chicago time. He did admit that this is NBD because when Steve-o was in China, he had to do the call in the god-awful morning hours to accommodate the BSDs in the U.S. and London.

Speaking of China (and digression), does anyone think Steve knows where mini-Madoff of Hong Kong Gabriel Azedo is? Dude has been missing for awhile.

Grant Thornton Named in New Writ, Partner Still MIA

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Grant-thornton-logo.JPGToday in non-Patrick Byrne Grant Thornton news, the Hong Kong and International firms are now named in a new writ related to the scandal involving nowhere-to-be-found-former-partner Gabriel Azedo.

We imagine GT is less than thrilled with this latest development since they probably felt pretty good about firing Gabe’s ass the moment they found out he was a liability. The new writ states that the firms are ‘vicariously liable’ for $10.3 million.

There’s no indication that Eddie Nusbaum & Co. have put out an APB on Gabe in order to track him down and get all Jack Bauer on his ass. If it were us, we’d have every SD scouring the Earth* for this guy.

Until that happens, Grant Thornton is in deny ’til you die mode, saying that it will be ‘defended vigorously’ and that they expect to be ‘fully exonerated.’ God, will someone come up with a new press release for these scandals?

Grant Thornton linked to fraud claims [FT]

*You’re a Global Six Firm after all

Facing Writs, Ex-Grant Thornton Partner Bolts Hong Kong

A former Grant Thornton partner in Hong Kong is facing two writs from clients that total $12.1 million, according to the Financial Times.

Gabriel Azedo was reported by Grant Thornton Hong Kong*, after the allegations were made, to the HK commercial crime bureau for ‘inappropriate’ conduct.


Of course, when we hear “inappropriate conduct” we automatically imagine something lewd but alas, it’s about money:

Angela Gardner, a Hong Kong resident, is suing Mr Azedo and Senning International, registered in the British Virgin Islands, for breach of contract and breach of trust and demanding $9.8m. Grant Thornton is not mentioned in this suit.

Arthur and Betty da Silva, prominent local racehorse owners, have filed a writ against Mr Azedo and Grant Thornton Hong Kong seeking an account of trust assets allegedly held on their behalf by the defendants.

Mr and Mrs da Silva are demanding the transfer of “all such trust property” to them or restitution of not less than $2.3m.

On October 20, GTI realized that this guy was a liability, reported him to HK Fuzz and promptly terminated their relationship with him. Gabe, “a pillar of the city’s financial establishment”, was on GT’s global leadership board as recently as October 21, although he had not technically been a partner in the firm since 2008.

Oh so mysterious, Mr. Azedo. What were you doing over there in HK? The FT, being the bastions of journalism that they are, tried reaching him for comment but sounds like he’s is on the lam.

Although it doesn’t seem to be much more than a headache for GT — for now — we’re happy to see something out of the firm aside from another visit from the press release elves.

Ex-Grant Thornton partner faces writs [FT]

*Everybody knows that the offices are independent of each other right? The global firm is just something they say. Sort of like “Global Six Accounting Firm”. Which, for the record, was not mentioned once in this article.