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KPMG UK boss quits after telling staff: 'Stop moaning' about COVID

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
KPMG UK boss Bill Michael. Photo: KPMG
KPMG UK boss Bill Michael. Photo: KPMG

The chairman and senior partner of KPMG UK has resigned following a scandal about comments he made to staff earlier in the week.

Accountancy and consultancy firm KPMG confirmed in a statement on Friday that Bill Michael would leave at the end of the month.

Michael's swift downfall follows comments made to staff in a meeting earlier this week. The Financial Times reported that Michael told staff to "stop moaning" and "playing the victim card" when it came to COVID-19. He reportedly also dismissed unconscious bias as "complete crap."

Michael, who has run KPMG UK since 2017, stepped aside earlier this week pending an inquiry. He said in a statement on Friday he had concluded his position was untenable.

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READ MORE: KPMG UK boss steps aside after telling staff to 'stop moaning' about COVID-19

"I love the firm and I am truly sorry that my words have caused hurt amongst my colleagues and for the impact the events of this week have had on them," he said. "In light of that, I regard my position as untenable and so I have decided to leave the firm.

"It has been a privilege to have acted as chair of KPMG. I feel hugely proud of all our people and the things they have achieved, particularly during these very challenging times.”

The logo of KPMG. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The logo of KPMG. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Michael qualified as a chartered accountant in Australia before moving to the UK in 1993, according to his KPMG biography. He worked in KPMG's financial services practices with clients including JP Morgan (JPM), Deutsche Bank (DBK.DE), Credit Suisse (CS), and Barclays (BARC.L).

He "championed the debate about bank culture and standards and the need for change in the industry," according to his biography. Michael was an advisor to the UK parliament's Treasury Select Committee on its inquiry into Banking Standards.

Michael, who was hospitalised with COVID-19 last year, was paid £1.7m ($2.4m) in 2020 according to recent accounts. That was down from £1.98m in 2019.

KPMG’s 582 partners, who make up most of its senior staff, took an 11% pay cut last year but still earned an average of £572,000 each. Sales for the year slumped 4% to £2.3bn.

KPMG announced that two women would temporarily take charge of the UK business, pending a full election by members later in the year.

Bina Mehta has stepped in as acting chair of the board and Mary O’Connor, currently head of clients and markets, will assume day-to-day executive responsibilities. It marks the first time women have led the business in its 150-year history.

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