This was originally posted Going Concern.com on August 12, 2009. …there’s definitely collusion/shenanigans going on amongst the big 4 for compensation along with extending dates for promotions. Ratings manipulation is also going on along with unfair treatment of those that tried to go above and beyond….” Both Deloitte and KPMG admitted last fall that job […]
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As I have said before, in particular with regard to the layoffs at PwC in February that have continued since, the Big 4 do not like to talk about cuts. They have a habit of reducing staff surgically, in a thousand little cuts, across practices, geographies, offices, so that each person thinks they are unique. Those cut are often made to feel inferior and a failure, as most often the cuts are characterized as performance related and a result of forced ranking techniques. I also see the survivor rationalization too – when survivors dis’ those cut by saying they just “couldn’t make it in the Big 4” or they were “dead wood.” Helps cut down on ongoing morale problems when the remaining staff feel more secure, safe, because they think they are superior.
Ms. Harrington made it clear on the phone, and in her statement, that the vast majority of cuts were based on the negative economic reality the firm is facing. What’s frustrating to professionals, both those cut and those left behind, is why the firms are not better at planning and forecasting.
What happens when an abused partner finally feels empowered? Everyone in a Big 4 global audit firm is generic and expendable. The general public, even the business press, does not know their names. To most clients they are more or less interchangeable. In an article I wrote for MarketWatch about the KPMG-PCAOB scandal, Jim Peterson […]
I think about the “one-firm firm” concept frequently. It’s an ideal that I can safely say all the Big 4 audit firms aspire to. And David Maister was the guru when I started in consulting in 1993 at KPMG Consulting. Later my mentor gave me his book, Managing Professional Services Firms, and I was hooked on the theory of professional services as well as the practice. So much has changed even in my professional life, which only goes back to the early 80’s. Front and center are the threats to the global network of all the firms and the focus on aggressive growth while diluting the partnership culture of the firms by perverting their compensation structure. Partner performance assessment has become a short-term, self-serving tool to throw disproportionate wealth to a small group of senior leadership.
New US Advisory Leader, Dana McIlwain laid out the bad news: The time has come to cut. Average utilization is hovering at 69%. Cash collections are millions short. Campus recruiting for Advisory has been stopped cold. Business sucks and then there’s the 800+ BearingPoint folks to absorb. On November 11th the rank and file partners, fortified after training and coaching by HR via a webcast in the next few days, will chop 300+ professionals from PwC Advisory…
The drama continues at Deloitte. The cuts and other human resources actions haven’t stopped or subsided. On the contrary. With the recent loss of United Airlines as an audit client, as well as the effort at absorption of the BearingPoint professionals, new cuts and “rightsizing” are likely necessary. Those remaining are still waiting for official news of regarding promotions, raises and most likely announcements of “no bonuses.”
I asked myself, “fm, what would you do if one of them asked you to step up and offer solutions?” If anyone asked me to help find a way to get through this period,
-Without reductions in force,
-Without betraying the trust of otherwise very loyal employees,
-Without losing the confidence of key clients,
-Without endangering quality and integrity in the work they’ve been enfranchised to do under the exclusive licensing of various federal governments and public/private bodies such as exchanges,
-Without risking new lawsuits for negligence and complicity on fraud and malfeasance, and
-Without completely abdicating responsibility to their true client – the shareholders and investors in the public companies they audit,
I would start at the top.
Gathering information and thoughts for a longer piece on how reductions in force or “layoffs” work in the Big 4. Please check back later today. In the meantime, for more information about “forced ranking,” the “performance review process” at PwC, and the theory of layoffs in professional services firms check the links above and […]
Picture Source Update GE’s Annual Meeting is this Wednesday. Looks like Immelt will have some explaining to do… But take a look at this report fresh from the Associated Press. Can you believe accounting professors are talking about earnings manipulation by GE as if it were expected and par for the course? Makes you wonder […]
As we’ve seen from the comments on my PwC layoff post and other mail I’ve received, PwC is not the only one to be reducing staff via “counseling out” , “forced ranking” , “the Italian greyhounds ate the workpapers…”, or whatever other excuse they give. Both Deloitte and KPMG have also seen cuts, per my […]
When it comes in conjunction with the annual review process and the excuse is the process of “forced ranking”. “Forced ranking” is the practice of putting some at the bottom of the performance pile every year, suddenly, even though they’ve often had no warning and even though prior performance ratings were above average in the […]
Another question I get all the time: Professionalism and trust is the cornerstone of auditing! Would an auditor ever risk their reputation to collude with an unsavory client? It’s a myth that the largest global audit firms will avoid doing anything that harms their reputation, and will police their own to make sure any professionals […]