In my previous life as a Big Four employee, I was told ‘never put something in an email that you wouldn’t be happy to have read out in court.’ I’m not sure I always followed this advice when it came to emails, and I certainly did not when it came to communications on Skype and Teams. But I’m not alone, some PwC partners have also had trouble following this rule.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that PwC Australia leaked confidential government information on tax avoidance law changes to its clients (mainly MAAL stuff). The scandal began when a whistleblower leaked a cache of emails to the Australian Senate committee on tax and revenue. I read through 147 pages of those emails so that you don’t have to.
The source of the leak was Peter ‘Colander’ Collins who insisted in his various emails that everything be treated as rumour.
Peter was not the only one to share the information while knowing that it should have been treated confidentially.
The information was shared with PwC clients and targets, who were able to use it to restructure their businesses and avoid paying taxes. The companies contacted by PwC were redacted by the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) but you can see that there were quite a few.
PwC won new business worth around $2.5 million from advice relating to the tax leaks but that wasn’t enough according to one unnamed PwC partner.
The leaks raise serious questions about the integrity of PwC and its compliance with ethical standards. Senator Deborah O’Neill, who helped reveal the tax leaks, wants every partner involved in the leaks to leave the firm. Well that isn’t going to happen.
The TPB banned Peter Collins from acting as a tax practitioner until 2024. I highly doubt his old job at PwC is waiting for him. The firm's CEO, Tom Seymour and two other senior executives also stepped down from their leadership roles, though remain Partners at the firm. Tom Seymour has since indicated he will leave the partnership.
The final email I’ll share is probably my favourite. It is heavily redacted so hard to fully understand but it seems that a client reminded this PwC Partner of a character from the movie Goodfellas and he just had to pass that on.
Come to think of it, the story kind of reminds me of Goodfellas too.