PwC’s statement of facts indicates that no staff will be fired over the tax leak scandal – other than the eight whose exits were announced in July – and makes it clear no further action is expected.
“Having now completed its 2023 investigation, PwC Australia is confident that those responsible for the confidentiality breaches have been identified,” the statement says.
“People have been held to account, we are divesting our government business, and we have a new management leadership team,” said PwC Australia chief executive Kevin Burrowes in a letter accompanying the Switkowski review of the firm’s failings.
Treasury, which referred the previous unauthorised disclosures to the AFP for investigation, is also looking at the information released last week.
“Treasury is reviewing the statement of facts released by PwC, including some of the claims over other disclosures made by PwC personnel, and will consider what further appropriate action should be taken,” a spokesman said.
Burrowes told former partners on Thursday that the reports on the investigations by the law firms would not be made public.
“I should note that people are already calling for us to release our legal investigations in full. We will not be doing that, and we will not be doing that because they are legally privileged, because they name people who did nothing wrong and who should not have their names published therefore. And because, of course, those reviews may jeopardise ongoing regulatory investigations,” he said.
PwC was asked if the reports, which were conducted by law firms Linklaters and King & Wood Mallesons, had been handed to any regulators, or professional bodies, for disciplinary action here and overseas.
“PwC is aware of and complies with our legal obligations,” a spokesperson said.
Last Thursday, a day after the release of these reviews, Burrowes made clear to former partners that the focus was now on getting PwC back on the front foot with clients.
“I will be meeting with a number of clients from priority accounts in the coming days and weeks,” he said. “Our global chair, Bob Moritz, will also join me when he’s in Australia next week. The purpose of this visit is to demonstrate the support of the network to PwC Australia and he will be meeting many clients and [directors] during his visit.”
This will almost certainly include Macquarie Group, which paid PwC more than $79 million dollars in fees last year.
Separately, a statement from Moritz via PwC’s international office said the Linklaters investigation cleared any global partners of any wrongdoing.
He said the investigation “found no evidence that any PwC personnel outside of Australia used confidential information from PwC Australia for commercial gain. With respect to those PwC people who did receive confidential information from PwC Australia, most did not know the information was confidential.”
Emails from the Tax Practitioners Board investigation had raised concerns about the involvement of international partners. The documents, totalling 144 pages, revealed for the first time the scale of the exploitation of confidential information across different countries.
One email in October 2014 from PwC’s Sydney office to email addresses in the UK and US referred to Australian Treasury Department tax planning schemes.
“Because it was provided to us on a confidential basis I asked that you don’t circulate it beyond us or discuss it outside PwC – it would really put PwC Australia and me in a bind,” the Sydney-based sender wrote.
“Did you intend to attach the confidential document?” a UK recipient replied.
Greens Senator Barbara Pocock, who is also on the Senate inquiry into the consulting industry, made it clear that the matter should not end here.
“PwC’s global leadership are clearly worried about damage to their brand and are desperately trying to lay the blame squarely at the door of PwC Australia,” she said.
“The assertion that none of the international operatives who received and used the confidential information from the tax office have any culpability in this matter is a snow job. I’ve read the emails. It’s unmistakably clear that this material was not meant to be shared, yet here we have PwC’s global chair telling us there were just six people who didn’t actually know it was confidential but should have asked.”
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