PwC’s Top Lawyers Abruptly Vanish, Leaving Everyone Wondering: What’s Going On in the World of Professional Services?

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In a startling turn of events, PwC’s top lawyers have vanished without a trace, sending shockwaves through Professional Services and leaving an entire industry puzzled: What lies behind this sudden disappearance?

Several notable developments in PwC have made it challenging to keep abreast of all the changes.

Among the most intriguing announcements was the return of former M&A partner Karen Evans-Cullen, now acting general counsel, replacing the formidable Meredith Beattie.

Departing alongside Beattie is Tony O’Malley, who held the position of global head of legal solutions and was recently appointed chief risk officer and ethics leader at the firm.

It is worth noting that neither Beattie nor O’Malley were implicated in the tax scandal that has engulfed the firm since January. 

PwC Departure: From Sinking Ship to Smooth Sailing 

Evans-Cullen had previously left PwC to join Gilbert & Tobin in 2021. During a conversation with Hearsay, she hinted at her reasons for going, stating, “I felt like I was departing a sinking ship.” 

Although she could not be reached for comment this week, sources within PwC assert that her sentiments have not been forgotten and are once again circulating within the company.

According to Evans-Cullen, her decision to leave PwC was driven by working on significant deals alongside the tax, financial, due diligence, and strategy teams that could have resonated better with the market. Upon joining G+T, she was immediately assigned to the Afterpay deal, a prospect that genuinely excited her.

Now, Evans-Cullen is set to experience a change in her role as she assumes the position of acting general counsel, a move seen as a secondment from G+T, where she is also a governance expert. Reports suggest that this secondment could last as little as three months, alleviating concerns about making new connections during her tenure.

“The areas PwC emphasises, including employment, regulatory, cyber, and infrastructure, didn’t align with my interests. As a partner at PwC, the dynamics were markedly different from that of a law firm, where legal affairs constituted only a small part of the firm’s overall success, resulting in a different level of influence,” said Karen Evans-Cullen.

Australian Federal Police, Parliamentary Inquiries, and PwC Reviews—The Plot Thickens

There is an ongoing investigation by the Australian Federal Police, and three parliamentary inquiries are underway, accompanied by a fresh review by the Tax Practitioners Board.

Furthermore, PwC has initiated three additional reviews – an internal assessment led by Ziggy Switkowski, focusing on the firm’s culture, governance, and accountability, along with two external legal reviews.

PwC Australia has engaged King & Wood Mallesons for their review, while PwC Global has enlisted the services of Linklaters, which is affiliated with Allens.

Corporate Twists And Turns: Retirement And Executive Shuffles Shake Up The Firm!

Incoming chief executive Kevin Burrowes has conveyed to the staff that both Meredith Beattie and Tony O’Malley had expressed their intention to retire from the firm during this financial year. However, some doubt has been raised regarding this assertion.

O’Malley was appointed to the risk and ethics role on May 15, the same day the Switkowski review was announced. He was mentioned again in a media release on May 29 concerning the departure of nine partners.

“We’ve comprehensively reviewed our culture, governance and accountability. This aligns with the recommendations outlined in the independent Switkowski report,” Burrowes said.

On June 25, it was announced that Burrowes, PwC’s global clients and industries leader, would relocate from Singapore to take over as CEO from acting CEO Kristin Stubbins.

On July 4, Kevin Burrowes clarified, “O’Malley was never meant to stay in the role for long, and he had decided to retire early, alongside Beattie, who has been with the firm since 2005.”

Scandals, Departures, and Intrigue: PwC’s Legal Shake-Up Leaves Everyone Guessing!

Senator Barbara Pocock commented on Twitter about Beattie’s departure and the “new legal architecture” at PwC, suggesting that her reasons for leaving may lie somewhere between a genuine desire to depart and being obligated to do so in the aftermath of the tax scandal.

Despite offering clarity, O’Malley has yet to address certain aspects of the situation. For instance, it remains to be seen why he accepted the new role if he had already planned to retire, even though it was referred to as an acting position.

One perspective is that Burrowes reassessed the situation and realised the need for more significant changes, prompting O’Malley’s departure.

Ultimately, the departure of the firm’s top two lawyers, Beattie and O’Malley, has sparked intrigue, and it has been revealed that a former critic of the firm has returned.

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