Sanctions against KPMG LLP and former audit partner

News types: Investigations

Published: 29 June 2023

This Press Notice concerns the outcome of an investigation into the relevant Statutory Auditor(s). The investigation does not relate to any persons other than the relevant Statutory Auditor(s) and it would not be fair to treat any part of this announcement as constituting or evidencing an investigation into any other persons or entities.
The Executive Counsel of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has issued a Final Settlement Decision Notice under the Audit Enforcement Procedure and imposed sanctions against KPMG LLP and Nicola Quayle, a former partner of KPMG who was the Statutory Auditor and Audit Engagement Partner, in relation to the statutory audit of the financial statements of Eddie Stobart Logistics plc (ESL) for the financial year ended 30 November 2017.
The sanctions are:
Against KPMG:
  1. A financial sanction of £1.35 million, discounted for admissions and early disposal to £877,500.  KPMG’s poor disciplinary record was noted as an aggravating factor;
  2. Non-financial sanctions, comprising:
    1. a Severe Reprimand;
    2. a declaration that the 2017 audit report did not satisfy the Relevant Requirements; and
    3. an order requiring KPMG to take specified actions to prevent the re-occurrence of the contravention.
Against Ms Quayle:
  1. A financial sanction of £70,000 discounted for admissions and early disposal to £45,500.  Notable aggravating factors were Ms Quayle’s seniority at the point of signing the audit report and past disciplinary record;
  2. Non-financial sanctions, comprising:
    1. a Severe Reprimand; and
    2. a declaration that the 2017 audit report did not satisfy the Relevant Requirements.
Ms Quayle ceased performing Statutory Audits in 2020 and no longer holds a practising certificate. She has provided an undertaking that she will not carry out Statutory Audits or sign Statutory Audit reports in the future.
ESL, a company operating in the supply chain, transport and logistics business, was listed on the Alternative Investment Market. KPMG performed the 2017 audit and resigned as auditor in 2018, because of a breakdown in their relationship with ESL’s management, following difficulties in obtaining sufficient appropriate audit evidence.
In July 2019, ESL announced that a review had been conducted into its prior year financial statements. Following this review, in 2020, ESL disclosed significant prior year accounting adjustments to the 2017 financial year.  KPMG and Ms Quayle breached Relevant Requirements in some of the areas which were subject to prior year adjustments.
Broadly, the admitted failings related to the audit work carried out on:
  • property transactions entered into by ESL, and the disclosure in the financial statements regarding those transactions.  These transactions had a significant effect on ESL’s financial performance, and without the profit generated from them, ESL would have been in a loss-making position;
  • dilapidations; and
  • accounting for a subsidiary company.
In respect of the property transactions, the auditors failed to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence of services provided by ESL in those transactions to allow revenue to be ascribed to the provision of those services and recognised up-front in the financial year.  Further, the disclosures in the financial statements relating to the property transactions did not adequately explain the impact of those transactions on ESL’s financial performance.
The failings were serious but not pervasive.
Claudia Mortimore, Deputy Executive Counsel, said:

There were some serious failings admitted in this case; although they were not pervasive throughout the audit.  The case highlights the importance of, firstly, the auditor's work in ensuring that disclosures in financial statements enable users to understand the impact of particular transactions on the entity’s financial performance; and secondly, ensuring that advice received in technical consultations is effectively implemented.”

The Final Decision Notice is available here.

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