The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against six certified public accountants – including former staffers at the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) and former senior officials at KPMG LLP – arising from their participation in a scheme to misappropriate and use confidential information relating to the PCAOB's planned inspections of KPMG.
The SEC's Division of Enforcement and Office of the Chief Accountant allege that the former PCAOB officials made unauthorized disclosures of PCAOB plans for inspections of KPMG audits, enabling the former KPMG partners to analyze and revise audit work papers in an effort to avoid negative findings by the PCAOB. Two of the former PCAOB officials had left the PCAOB to work at KPMG. The SEC's Enforcement Division and Office of the Chief Accountant allege the third official leaked PCAOB data at the time he was seeking employment with KPMG. The three former KPMG partners were all in the firm's national office. According to the SEC's order, the misconduct began in 2015 and persisted until February 2017. Soon after the conduct was discovered, the six respondents were terminated, resigned or placed on leave before separating from KPMG and the PCAOB, respectively.
"As alleged, these accountants engaged in shocking misconduct – literally stealing the exam – in an effort to interfere with the PCAOB's ability to detect audit deficiencies at KPMG," said Steven Peikin, Co-Director of the SEC's Enforcement Division. "The PCAOB inspections program is meant to assess whether firms are cutting corners, compromising their independence, or otherwise falling short in their responsibilities. The SEC cannot tolerate any scheme to subvert that important process."
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against the six accountants.