PwC Australia vows shakeup after tax leak scandal

Consulting group PwC Australia admitted Wednesday to “repeated failures of leadership” and promised further changes following a tax leak scandal that battered its global reputation.

The firm has been mired in controversy since January, when news emerged that staff had shared information from a confidential government tax briefing to drum up new business.

PwC Australia set out a string of reforms as it released an independent review on Wednesday that highlighted shortcomings including a “whatever it takes” focus that may have led to “integrity failures”.

“Some partners did the wrong thing, while others failed to do the right thing by overlooking or minimising the significance of questionable behaviours,” said the third-party review.

Partners who brought in a lot of money — so-called rainmakers — were described as “‘untouchables’ or individuals to whom the ‘rules don’t always apply'”, it found.

The report criticised the excessive power conferred on the chief executive and cited a perception of “cronyism” in the choice of the top job and other key roles.

PwC Australia said it would act on the report to restore trust by changing its culture, publishing comprehensive audited financial statements, and adding at least three independent, non-executive members to its governance board.

PwC Australia chief executive Kevin Burrowes, who took the reins in July, said he was “deeply sorry” for the firm’s behaviour in an open letter released at the same time as the review.

“In addition to identified wrongdoing, a series of mistakes, wrong decisions and poor judgements were made,” he said.

“Repeated failures of leadership contributed to an erosion of good governance and weakened our focus on our professional and ethical standards.”

In July, PwC Australia sacked a string of executives and offloaded its lucrative Australian government advisory business for Aus$1 (US$0.63). — Agence France-Presse