PwC’s global boss defies Senate request

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

PwC’s global boss has defied the Senate’s request to provide a report on the involvement of its overseas partners in the tax leaks scandal that ended the Australian firm’s government business and put intense scrutiny on the sector.

The global business says the report it commissioned last year into the spread and potential exploitation of confidential Australian government information overseas is protected by legal professional privilege.

PwC Global last year released a summary of the report, conducted by legal firm Linklaters, that it says cleared overseas its partners of using the confidential information “for commercial gain”. But it still disciplined six of the global staff for not inquiring about the nature of the shared information.

PwC Global chairman Bob Moritz has declined the Senate’s request to share a report into the tax leaks scandal. Image: PwC Global

On Thursday, PwC Global reiterated the report found no evidence of commercial gain. But its chairman Bob Moritz still rejected the request for the report from the Senate committee probing the consulting sector.

Labor Senator and committee member Deborah O’Neill said his “minimisation” of the breach was disappointing.

“He can show that PwC is dealing with the legacy of its behaviour in Australia, but that will require a commitment to transparency and openness,” Senator O’Neil said.

“If the involvement by international partners in this scandal is minimal, then there would seem to be little justification for hiding legal privilege.”

Mr Moritz and PwC Global’s executives have taken control of PwC Australia by putting the local operation into “supervised remediation” over the tax leaks matter.

The scandal, which came to light more than a year ago, involved a former PwC Australia partner sharing confidential government information with staff that was then used to help clients sidestep tax laws.

It has triggered multiple inquiries and led to an overhaul of government procurement expectations and rules. Many Australian partners were forced out and the local arm sold off its government work for $1.

“Australian partners of the firm have already paid a substantial penalty for their involvement in this issue. I see no reason why their international peers should be spared that scrutiny, just because we are told by PwC that there is ‘nothing to see’ here,” Senator O’Neil said.

“Given the disingenuous and potentially misleading approach taken by PwC throughout the Senate’s investigations, there is no basis for the Senate to believe the firm’s assertions without evidence.”

Senator O’Neill also chairs a joint committee that is also inquiring into consultants and said it will continue to investigate the tax leaks scandal and “push for the full and frank transparency from PwC in both their domestic and international operations”.

“Mr Moritz’s denial does not mark the conclusion of this matter.”

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