The Wall St. Journal’s China Real Time Report stumbled upon the BDO/Grant Thornton
poaching exodus merger situation (some may say, “clusterfuck”) in Hong Kong and we have no choice but to take issue with it.
The headline reads, “Missed It? Hong Kong’s Big Accounting Merger” and they mention the original report from the South China Morning Post. They manage to tone down the narrative but more or less tell the same story, full with quotes from BDO Hong Kong’s CEO Albert Au Siu-cheung:
On Wednesday, about a month after the joint press release, the South China Morning Post featured a front-page article describing the merger as a mass poaching of staff by BDO, “the biggest such raid in the city’s accounting sector.”
“It’s a bit sensational,” Au said, adding there was no raid. “Poaching is I pick a few heads here and there,” he said. “What you’re seeing here is the whole firm, meaning the partners and staff, coming to join us in BDO.”
In other words, “Sure it sounded bad but really it was just people making a choice”:
“There is no goodwill payment of any kind,” Au said. “I like to think they are voting with their feet. By that, I mean they think they’re joining a platform they have commitment to and believe in.” Clients were informed of the change and had the option to find another accounting firm. All clients have stayed with Grant Thornton for this merger.
Of course if someone at the Journal had rang up Grant Thornton International they would have likely gotten the story that we reported on last Friday which is that GTI booted the affiliate firm in Hong Kong and that BDO is kinda, sorta misrepresenting the situation:
They did not choose to leave, they were told to leave…[I]t is disingenous, or possibly wishful thinking, on the part of BDO to suggest that Grant Thornton is pulling out of Hong Kong. Many partners and staff from the former Hong Kong firm have already contacted the new Grant Thornton firm and clients will, of course, decide for themselves whether to move to BDO, which operates in the region as a loose affiliation, or remain with the more integrated, ‘one firm’ approach of Grant Thornton.
And of course there are the opposing press releases. The joint one issued by the BDO/GT firm dated October 7th that states:
Leading accounting firms BDO and Grant Thornton are pleased to announce that their firms have agreed in principle to merge their businesses and practise in the name of BDO Limited.
And the one from GTI, also dated October 7th that states something quite different:
Grant Thornton International gave its Hong Kong member firm notice on 20 September to leave the global organisation by March 2011.
With that mandate and probably few options, it appears that GTHK ran into the arms of BDOHK. BDO is using the Journal to disseminate a story that makes them look proactive and ambitious when in reality, none of this would even be happening if GTI hadn’t told their HK firm to get lost. The Journal – like the South China Morning Post – doesn’t mention that. Some people might consider that a major piece of the story.
We’ve put out a warning in the past about wandering into our corner of the sandbox without knowing what the hell you’re doing (or at least checking with us first) and you can consider this a friendly reminder about that. We’re more than happy to help because this accounting/accounting firm stuff is tricky when you don’t spend every single day reading and writing about it.