KPMG has been accused of mishandling a #metoo incident in which a newly-qualified lawyer accused a senior solicitor of sexual harassment but then withdrew her allegation.
The NQ complained in February this year that a male director in the accountancy firm's legal services group had sexually harassed her at a 2018 event attended by clients and counsel. The senior solicitor denied the allegations and, said a source, in the course of KPMG's investigation other staff supported his version of events. In April 2019, just before KPMG bosses were about to meet to consider the results of the investigation, the NQ dropped her grievance.
A source said the NQ admitted that she had fabricated the allegation. When the director asked for a public apology to be provided to the rest of the team "because of the reputational damage", she refused, said the source, explaining that she "made up the accusation because of depression". However, another source claimed that the NQ did not say she had lied, or blame depression, and that there was a different, confidential, reason she brought and then dropped her claim.
After being asked by KPMG partners to "let it go as the mature way of handling the situation", said insiders, the director handed in his notice. "Many team members are aware of the accusation but not the events that followed", said a source. "The NQ who made the false claim is still working in the [same] team with no disciplinary steps having been taken against her. The director is still working in [that team too]. No explanation has been given to other team members".
A Bungle, yesterday.
Asked about KPMG's management of the matter, a spokeswoman said, "As a firm, we have robust policies in place to deal with any reported instances of harassment, victimisation and bullying. All reports are investigated via our disciplinary procedures and action is taken where appropriate”.
“While we do not comment in detail on individual cases and investigations", she added, "we do not recognise this characterisation of events, which is factually inaccurate". KPMG declined to state how the account was inaccurate.