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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 April 2024

EY calls off break-up plan 

The company, which is one of the Big Four accounting giants, announced its plans for a split in September

Reuters Bangalore Published 13.04.23, 04:43 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

Accounting firm EY has called off a plan to break up its audit and consulting units, slamming the brakes on a proposed overhaul of its businesses that was meant to address regulatory concerns over potential conflicts of interest.

The company, which is one of the Big Four accounting giants, announced its plans for a split in September after regulators voiced concerns that the audit arm would not do its job fairly for its client if it also employed EY as a consultant.

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But the plan, code-named “Project Everest”, faced resistance from some of EY’s partners. The company said its US Executive Committee decided not to move forward with the split.

Had the split been ratified, it would have been the biggest overhaul in the accounting sector since the 2002 collapse of Arthur Andersen, the auditor that was mired in the Enron scandal and whose downfall reduced the Big Five to Big Four.

UK auditing and accounting regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, had asked the Big Four firms in 2020 to separate auditing as a standalone business in Britain by June 2024.

EY’s latest move was first reported by the Financial Times.

The firm’s global leadership team on Tuesday sent its partners a note stating they will not move forward with Project Everest and they will pursue other alternatives.

EY operates as global network of member entities and the proposed split had to be approved on a country-by-country basis.

According to the FT report, the US members doubted the possibility of the auditing entity being strong enough after the split to provide quality services.

Critics had also cautioned that splitting the business could see the auditing side suffer in the shadow of what is traditionally more lucrative consulting work. EY says the split will make it easier to raise capital to invest and create two more agile companies.

The break-up plan envisaged consultants receiving shares in the new business up to nine times their annual earnings.

The auditors would have received a cash handout up to four times their earnings.

In March, EY’s plans to split its auditing and consulting arms have been dragged into a $2.7 billion lawsuit brought in London by the administrators of troubled hospital operator NMC Health plc over concerns EY would be unable to pay if it loses the case.

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