Australia’s financial watchdog, ASIC, has imposed an eight-year ban on a former PwC partner who was at the center of a confidentiality scandal, which had severe repercussions for the firm, including a damaging reputation crisis and a costly sell-off.
The individual in question, Peter John Collins of Sandringham in Victoria, faced allegations of sharing confidential government information concerning multinational tax avoidance with his colleagues. Eight years ago, Collins had been advising the Treasury on draft laws aimed at curbing large companies’ ability to minimize their tax liabilities and shift profits overseas. Internal PwC emails, which were later obtained and disclosed by the Senate, revealed that he shared this confidential information, accompanied by a “for your eyes only” warning. These emails also confirmed that the Treasury’s information was utilized to secure work from prominent U.S. companies as part of an internal initiative referred to as “the North American Project.”
The breach of confidentiality resulted in outrage from the federal treasurer, initiated a federal police investigation, led to a referral to a corruption watchdog by the Greens, and gave rise to allegations that PwC had knowingly breached trust and engaged in a deliberate cover-up. This crisis further resulted in the departure of numerous partners and the divestiture of the entire government services division for a mere $1.
ASIC stated in a release that Collins would be prohibited from providing financial services or controlling an entity engaged in a financial services business for a duration of eight years. This decision was made due to the determination that he was no longer deemed a “fit and proper person” to be involved in such activities.