Staff accuses KPMG of ignoring complaints about UAE boss

KPMG’s global leadership has been accused by employees of failing to respond to written complaints about the conduct of the accounting firm’s business executives in the United Arab Emirates.

Present and former KPMG Employees told the Financial Times that they contacted the company’s global leaders via email and through the company’s whistleblower hotline at various times over the past three years, but took no action. clear is done. “I don’t think they care,” said one former employee.

These people describe a culture of fear at KPMG Lower Gulf, which operates in the UAE and Oman, with colleagues facing backlash if they disagree with director Nader Haffar’s approach.

“The only way to keep your job is to keep your mouth shut,” said one former associate, adding that those who disagreed with Haffar were “immediately fired or fired.” Another ex-partner said that Haffar had “the hottest temper you’ll ever see”.

Three other former employees said they were afraid to raise similar concerns with global organization KPMG International, fearing retaliation from the Ha Bay practice agency’s management team.

“Many of us ask how we can reliably advise clients and provide reassurance to shareholders, when our own management does not uphold our core values. our most recent version that we claim is sacrosanct,” said an employee, who filed an anonymous complaint – told the FT – about Tuesday with KPMG’s global president and chief executive officer Bill Thomas.

Lower Gulf KPMG clients include Dubai World, an investment manager for the Emirati government, and sovereign wealth funds ADQ and Mubadala Investments. It also advises the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Majid Al Futtaim Group, an Emirate’s retail and real estate group.

KPMG Lower Gulf is fell into chaos last week After a group of discussion partners held a secret ballot to determine whether Haffar would lose their support but later abandoned the plan, according to people familiar with the situation. These people said, the plot follows the departure of senior partners, who were forced to leave after expressing concerns about governance.

Partners have expressed concern about the position of Talal Cheikh Elard, Haffar’s brother-in-law, who was hired as a partner in October and appointed to the executive committee. Tensions flared in recent weeks after senior partners questioned Haffar’s efforts to give Elard a more powerful role, people with knowledge of the situation said.

Elard’s appointment was a surprise to some in the company because he spent most of his career at an advertising agency. Some inside the company were initially unaware of the personal relationship between Haffar and Elard, which one insider said “later fell to the ground like a bomb”.

People at KPMG have also raised concerns about Haffar and Elard’s behavior, including banging tables and yelling at staff. A current employee said that employees were in tears because of the behavior of senior executives. “I don’t think anyone has to work in those conditions,” the employee said.

They added that conduct at KPMG Lower Gulf is “something that cannot be tolerated anywhere else in the global network, so I’m surprised it is tolerated here.”

“Our company is about transparency and integrity. I think we need a full explanation of how this situation developed. And if that’s not clear, Nader and Talal need to go to restore trust.”

Haffar and Elard remained in their roles and did not respond to requests for comment made through KPMG.

KPMG Lower Gulf said three partners who left the company in recent weeks have resigned and they have planned succession.

Like the other Big Four accounting firms – Deloitte, EY and PwC – KPMG is a network of national and regional firms that are separately owned but share a common trademark and registered under globally common standards. bridge.

“We take all reports received by the international hotline seriously, and for each of them, we will respond and take appropriate action,” KPMG International said.

It declined to comment on governance and operating concerns at KPMG Lower Gulf but said it took such allegations seriously. “We encourage all colleagues to speak up if they see or hear anything they deem inappropriate and take action if necessary.”

In an internal email seen by the FT this week, KPMG employees in the Lower Bay region were asked not to answer questions from the press and that they would be updated on recent changes at the company “in the coming days.” next”.

A second internal email sent directly from Haffar to employees states that the company is “built on the values ​​of Integrity, Excellence, Courage, Teamwork, For the Better”.

“I would like to reiterate that all KPMG colleagues are encouraged to speak up if they hear or see anything they deem inappropriate, regardless of the subject,” he said in the email, which was also reported. FT said.

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