Arizona-loving accountant disgraced over missing pounds 300,000

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The Independent Online
A SENIOR partner of Ernst & Young, one of Britain's 'big six' auditing firms, has been dismissed for taking more than pounds 300,000 of the firm's cash.

Andrew Oakley, who had served as a council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, the auditors' governing body, has also been expelled from the profession. At one stage Mr Oakley was chairman of the institute's information technology group.

According to today's edition of Accountancy Age, Mr Oakley spent much of 1991 gradually removing money from Ernst & Young's bank accounts to fund an increasing amount of time spent in Arizona. The paper claims that Mr Oakley, a press liaison and marketing partner with the firm, often spoke of his intention to retire to the US state where the dry climate suited his wife, who suffered from a lung complaint.

Last night Nick Land, Ernst & Young's UK managing partner, said that Mr Oakley had been dismissed earlier this year. But he stressed that the missing money belonged to the firm and not to any clients. The firm will not be drawn on whether criminal proceedings will follow. But it is thought unlikely that it will expose itself to damaging publicity by pressing charges.

Elwyn Eilledge, the firm's senior partner, had worked with Mr Oakley for 30 years. He said that the affair had left him 'personally extremely upset'.

Ernst & Young will not elaborate on how the money was removed. But is seems Mr Oakley was caught by the firm's own internal audit procedures.

It is not unusual for senior partners in Britain's top accountancy firms to be paid six-figure sums, either by way of salaries or on a profit-sharing basis. It is not clear whether Mr Oakley was a profit- sharing partner.

As marketing partner, he had more power than most partners to run up wide-ranging travel expenses. But it was not until last October that the firm began to view these with more than suspicion.

Earlier this year, Mr Oakley was called in to see Mr Eilledge. At that meeting he admitted his guilt and was asked to leave immediately. He was then reported to the institute.

The institute's disciplinary committee said that Mr Oakley had 'between 9 January 1991 and 30 October 1991, whilst a partner in a firm of chartered accountants, misappropriated monies in excess of pounds 300,000'.

Ernst & Young said last night that it had taken steps to recover the money and that it expected most of it to be returned.

The firm's internal control procedures have been tightened.