It has not yet been a week since the world watched in horror as Russian forces unlawfully and forcefully entered Ukraine. An onslaught of attacks via air, land and sea ensued in the coming days, despite the fact that for months, President Putin denied plans of an invasion.
The international community has been quick to react to the atrocity, however, issuing immediate sanctions against the Russian government and state-backed companies. Outside of the accountancy sector, large corporations such as Apple, VW and Asos have all withdrawn from operating in the country with immediate effect.
On Tuesday night, top challenger firm Grant Thornton became the first accountancy firm to take clear action, revealing it had severed ties with FBK, the Grant Thornton member firm in Russia. “Like many international organisations around the world, we will continue to evaluate what further actions are needed as the situation evolves,” it stated.
The Big Four firms, who collectively employ over 13,000 people in Russia, are yet to take such decisive action, however. While all four firms have collectively condemned the ongoing violence and attacks on Ukraine, Russian operations appear to be ongoing at present.
So, what have their responses been so far? Here’s what they told Accountancy Today.
While PwC has revealed that its current “number one priority” is the safety of its employees in Ukraine, it has yet to confirm whether any action has or will be taken in regards to its operations in Russia, where it operates in nine locations including Moscow, Kazan, Krasnodar, Novosibirsk and St Petersburg. It said: “We cannot comment on specific companies or individuals but PwC takes compliance with applicable sanctions very seriously. We monitor sanctions developments on a real time basis to stay up to date with the latest changes and we then act accordingly.”
A further statement released today (2 March) read: “We deplore the violation of international law and the Russian aggression against Ukraine. We stand with the Ukrainian people. Our number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of our people. We are in very regular contact with our colleagues in Ukraine and providing all the support we can.
“For those colleagues and their families who wish to leave the conflict zones or Ukraine itself we are providing help with transportation, advice, legal and financial support. We are also providing accommodation for colleagues leaving the conflict zones, either elsewhere in Ukraine if they wish to remain in the country, or in neighbouring countries.”
It continued: “PwC has operated in Ukraine since 1993, and has a team of over 750 people serving both local and international stakeholders, but for now our sole focus and the only priority for our people is the safety and wellbeing of themselves and their families.”
Big Four firm Deloitte was one of the first firms to officially condemn the ongoing violence that Ukraine is facing at the hands of Putin, but has made no comment on its approach to sanctions compliance, or whether it plans to continue operations in Russia following the attack.
Global CEO Punit Renjen stated that the firm’s “overriding” concern at this time was the safety of its employees currently stationed in Ukraine, where the firm has an office based in Kyiv. While the group has suspended its operations in Ukraine, it made no comment on the future of its operations in Russia, however.
Deloitte is currently represented in seven of Russia’s largest cities, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ufa, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Vladivostok, where over 2,200 employees are stationed.
In a statement, Renjen said: “Deloitte stands unequivocally with the people of Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of this sovereign nation is an indefensible act of aggression that echoes the darkest days in European history. Our overriding concern at this time is the wellbeing of our colleagues in Ukraine and their families.
“We are taking every possible action to ensure their safety and that their essential needs are being met under fast changing circumstances. We are equally concerned about our colleagues in Russia and adjoining countries affected by this crisis. We are bringing to bear our global resources to address the humanitarian needs unfolding across Europe.”
He added: “For the time being, Deloitte has suspended business operations and client service in Ukraine as we focus on taking care of our people and their loved ones. Deloitte firms will continue to comply with all applicable sanctions. Our hope is that peace will prevail quickly.”
Meanwhile, Richard Houston, a senior partner and CEO at Deloitte North and South Europe and Deloitte UK stated on Monday 28 February that the firm “unequivocally deplores” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but once again failed to comment on the future of the firm’s Russian operations.
He said: “The world is watching in horror the tragedy in Ukraine – this is a devastating time for the country and its citizens. Deloitte North and South Europe is united with our Global network in providing support to our colleagues and their families in the region, alongside helping wider humanitarian efforts.
“We unequivocally deplore Russia’s military invasion of the country and its absolute disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.”
Today (2 March) he added that the “plight and suffering” of people affected by the emergency in Ukraine requires a “united response”.
In light of this, he confirmed that Deloitte North and South Europe has announced a joint donation with Deloitte DCE and Deloitte Spain of €2.3m to the International Committee of the Red Cross – ICRC, the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Deloitte Polska Foundation, which is providing financial as well as volunteer support to various non-governmental organisations across the region.
He said: “As the human cost of this crisis becomes clear, these organisations are doing vital work to save lives, provide shelter and safety, supply medicines and provide families with access to food and clean water. Thank you to everyone who is working to support all those affected by this tragedy.”
Deloitte in Russia is currently part of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) practice, a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL). It provides the usual audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services through over 3,800 people working across nine CIS countries, Georgia and Ukraine.
Deloitte CIS is represented in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), Ukraine (Kyiv), Belarus (Minsk), Georgia (Tbilisi), Armenia (Yerevan), Azerbaijan (Baku), Kazakhstan (Aktau, Almaty, Nur-Sultan, Atyrau), Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek), Uzbekistan (Tashkent), Tajikistan (Dushanbe) and Turkmenistan (Ashkhabad).
Similar to its counterparts, EY declined to comment on “specific client matters” but revealed it is “evaluating existing and new mandates in light of new sanctions and a rapidly-evolving regulatory landscape”.
EY operates from nine locations across Russia including Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan, Rostov-on-Don and Valdivostok and counts the German subsidiary of Russian majority state-owned multinational energy corporation Gazprom among its clients.
In keeping with its Big Four counterparts, KPMG has also condemned the ongoing atrocities, and has outlined ways in which it plans to provide international support through the means of donations.
Unlike its counterparts, however, it appears to be the only firm to so far address its compliance with sanctions, confirming it is reviewing its operations to comply with new laws and imposed sanctions in the wake of the crisis. It confirmed that this will even mean ending certain client relationships, both in the UK and globally.
In a newly released statement, Jonathan Holt, CEO of KPMG UK said: “It’s been devastating to watch the tragic events in Ukraine unfold and my thoughts are with all of those affected. It’s an extremely difficult time for anyone with connections to the region and I’m appalled by the invasion of a sovereign country, in violation of international law.
“First and foremost, we’re focused on the health and safety of our people and their families. KPMG is a global firm with offices in Kyiv and across the region. We’re in constant dialogue with our local colleagues to support them through this period, and our member firms are working to ensure they are able to provide all necessary support and assistance to them.”
He added: “We are reviewing and adapting our client work and operations to align with sanctions and comply with all new laws. This will mean ending some of our client relationships in the UK and globally. The situation is fast-moving and is being kept under close review on a daily basis.
“Many of our people in the UK are looking for practical ways to help our colleagues, friends and family affected. So this morning I’ve written to colleagues to launch an Emergency Appeal in support of the UNICEF Ukraine Fund, and alongside KPMG International have made a significant donation to the appeal. I hope that this will provide tangible support to those affected at this incredibly difficult time.”
The response from trade bodies
International trade bodies across the sector have joined the major firms in condemning the recent actions of Russia, whilst announcing their support for members that have and will be affected by the war.
A statement from ACCA reads: “Our thoughts are with our members, students and community in Ukraine as they face these shocking and tragic events. We oppose this invasion, and believe in freedom of choice and the right to self-determination. We wish to see a just and peaceful end to this military conflict.
“We have members and students in Ukraine, Russia and across surrounding countries. We are committed to supporting them wherever they are, and in whatever circumstances. We stand side by side with them in difficult times, enabling them to make a positive contribution to the profession, the global economy and, above all, society.”
It added: “As a global professional body for accountants, over our 116-year history we have operated in many difficult and uncertain circumstances, and we continue to do so. Our aim is to provide opportunity to people of ability and to develop the world’s accountancy profession, irrespective of location, and to work for the public good.
“We are working to continue our support through this conflict, including where possible holding exams – which can be taken online – for the next generation of accountants who have studied hard to take them. We are prioritising support of our teams caught up in this conflict, and adhering to government sanctions aimed at bringing an end to it.”
Meanwhile, the CEO of ICAEW, Michael Izza, said: “The UN Secretary General has urged the president of Russia to halt his invasion of Ukraine and prevent ‘what could be the worst war since the start of the century’. The UK government, standing alongside the US and EU, has announced a further package of sanctions aimed at demonstrating to the Russian elite the political and financial costs of their aggression.
“ICAEW is confident that chartered accountants, whether in practice or in business, will be ready and willing to play the fullest possible role in making these measures effective, and in helping companies across the economy cope with the disruption they will bring.”