Using Stolen PCAOB Data to Cost KPMG $50 Million

Big 4 accounting firm KPMG LLP will pay $50 million to settle SEC allegations that it altered past audit work after receiving stolen information from the PCAOB, which the SEC oversees, Bloomberg reported.

According to a June 17 statement, KMPG admitted wrongdoing and agreed to hire an independent consultant to review its internal controls. “KPMG’s ethical failures are simply unacceptable,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in the statement. “The resolution the enforcement division has reached holds KPMG accountable for its past failures and provides for continuing, heightened oversight to protect our markets and our investors.”

The fine stems from what was called a “steal the exam” scheme, from 2015 to 2017, in which KPMG professionals and former PCAOB employees worked together to help the firm, which had suffered a high rate of deficiencies. In the end, six KPMG professionals were dismissed after an investigation found they tried to obtain confidential information that would reveal which audits the PCAOB planned to review in its annual inspections. “With the data, the former employees oversaw a program to revise certain audits to reduce the likelihood government inspectors would find shortfalls,” Bloomberg reported.

The investigation resulted in January 2018 criminal charges against three former PCAOB officials, who went on to work for KPMG, of stealing information tied to PCAOB exams.

In an email statement, a company spokesperson said KPMG has learned important lessons and is a stronger firm because of steps taken to improve its culture, governance and compliance program. The SEC says its probe is continuing.

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