At least 500 workers at KPMG in the Netherlands have cheated during the compulsory exams which accountants are required to take, the consultancy group has confirmed.
KPMG said it had imposed sanctions on an unknown number of employees, and “a handful” had been fired following an internal investigation into the claims that staff had swapped answers to the tests.
KPMG Nederland director Marc Hogeboom is also stepping down as boss of the accounting arm, but remains an auditor and partner at KPMG. He said in a statement he “should have been more alert to signals” that pointed towards workers sharing their answers.
Roger van Boxtel, the supervisory board chairman and former NS boss resigned at the end of June, two years ahead of schedule. He says now he did not complete a “voluntary training course correctly”.
The investigation was sparked after one employee reported to senior management that others were sharing the answers to mandatory tests between them. The 500 figure is an interim number and the investigation, which started last year and covers the previous five years, is continuing, KPMG said.
Cheating during exams has been a problem within the accountancy sector for longer, and the American Public Company Acccounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) has earlier fined EY, PwC and KPMG up to several million dollars.
The fraud “impacts on the integrity and professionalism of accountants,” Hanzo van Beusekom, chairman of financial services watchdog AFM said in a statement.
“I am shocked by the scale of this cheating and the fact that it is playing out across all layers of the organisation… We strongly urge employees within the sector to proactively report abuse.”
The AFM will carry out its own investigation before deciding on any sanctions.