PwC parachutes in veteran to run scandal-hit Australian arm

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PwC has appointed a senior partner from its global network to lead its scandal-hit Australian operation, deepening its control over the local company as it seeks to rebuild its reputation.

Kevin Burrowes, a PwC veteran and head of the PwC Network’s global clients and industries business, will move from Singapore to Australia to take over the local partnership. He will replace Kristin Stubbins who stepped in as interim chief executive less than two months ago after Tom Seymour stepped down.

“Kevin’s experience across other parts of the PwC Network ensures that as he takes over the leadership in Australia he brings a fresh perspective to the firm, and he will work with his colleagues and management team to re-earn trust with PwC Australia’s stakeholders,” said Justin Carroll, chair of PwC Australia’s governance board.

The consultant has been at the centre of a scandal in Australia after it emerged that a senior partner in its tax practice had leaked confidential government information to colleagues in Australia and overseas about plans to crackdown on tax avoidance by multinational companies. 

Peter Collins, the partner at the centre of the scandal, was banned by the industry watchdog in February but the tax leaks scandal has remained in the spotlight after Australian senators published emails showing that the information had been used by PwC to win business. The Australian government has blocked PwC from competing for new business from a range of public and private sector organisations until a review is completed. It has also referred it to the police for investigation.

PwC Australia last week also agreed to sell its government consulting business to Allegro Funds, a private equity company, for A$1 (US$0.66).

The deal, due to complete next month, means PwC will have exited all government advisory work in Australia representing around a fifth of its revenue for the financial year to 2023. About 1,750 people will transfer to the Allegro-owned operation which will cut ties with the PwC brand. 

The appointment of Burrowes and the exit from government consulting are the most significant steps taken by PwC’s global business since the crisis first erupted.

PwC, like other Big Four groups, is structured as an alliance of locally owned member firms. That model is designed to partly ringfence any financial losses or legal liabilities within each country but the severity of the Australian situation and the evidence that the tax information was used outside of the country elevated it into an international issue. 

Bob Moritz, PwC’s global chair, said that Burrowes was an expert in the global network’s governance structures and standards. 

“Under past leadership, PwC Australia failed to meet the network’s ‘code of conduct’ and uphold the network’s professional standards and values. Its past actions are not representative of the work and behaviours of PwC around the world and I am deeply sorry to our clients, our broader stakeholders and our people,” Moritz said.

“PwC Australia has significant work to do and I am confident that the steps they are taking with the Network’s support will result in a stronger firm,” he said.

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