The UK chair of big four accounting firm KPMG has stepped aside from the role while an investigation is conducted into comments he made in a virtual staff meeting.
Bill Michaels is reported to have told staff to “stop moaning” and “playing the victim card” when it came to the pandemic in a call with around a third of the firm’s 1,500 employees.
His comments are alleged to have followed a poll of financial services staff at the beginning of the meeting in which many consultants said they had been struggling to cope with the pandemic.
The Financial Times reported one staff member had commented in an anonymous app used by employees during meetings: “Over 50 per cent of us on this call have just said we are either ‘hanging in there’ [or] ‘drained’. I’m left incredibly unimpressed by the comments from our leadership.”
In an email statement to staff later that day, he retracted his comments, arguing they did not reflect how he felt.
“I am sorry for the words I used, which did not reflect what I believe in, and I have apologised to my colleagues.”, he wrote.
“Looking after the wellbeing of our people and creating a culture where everyone can thrive is of critical importance to me and is at the heart of everything we do as a firm.”
However the Financial Times reports Mr Michaels elected to step aside while an investigation took place after additional comments emerged from the meeting - including allegations he had said unconscious bias training was “complete crap” and that he was still meeting clients despite the pandemic.
A spokesperson for KPMG confirmed an“independent investigation” had begun.
“Mr Michael has decided to step aside from his duties as chair while the investigation is underway,” they added.
“We take this matter very seriously and will not comment further while the investigation is ongoing.”
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