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FRC fines KPMG £1.25m over Revolution Bars audit

In determining the sanctions to be imposed, executive counsel has taken into account that these were serious breaches but not intentional, dishonest, deliberate or reckless, and that the respondents provided a ‘good level of cooperation’ during the investigation.

The executive counsel of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has fined KPMG LLP £1.25m and imposed further sanctions against it and Michael Frankish in relation to the audits of Revolution Bars Group for the financial years ended 30 June 2015 and the 53 weeks ended 2 July 2016.

According to the FRC, KPMG and Frankish have accepted failures in their work on the audits of the company. The failings relate to three specific areas of the audits: supplier rebates and listing fees; share-based payments; and (for FY2016 only) deferred taxation.

The company’s financial statements for FY2015 and FY2016 contained “various misstatements” which had to be corrected, some of which arose from the three areas mentioned, and some of which were material to the financial statements as a whole.

Consequently, the council said the audits “failed to achieve their principal objective of providing reasonable assurance that the financial statements were free from material misstatement”.

The FRC also said failings in respect of supplier rebates and listing fees were “aggravated” by the fact that the FRC had made auditors aware, through publications in 2014 and 2015, that such complex supplier arrangements were an area of particular audit risk and would be a focus of its inspection activity.

In determining the sanctions to be imposed, executive counsel said it has taken into account that these were “serious breaches but not intentional, dishonest, deliberate or reckless”, and that the respondents provided a “good level of cooperation” during the investigation, including making early admissions in respect of the breaches.

Frankish performed the role of audit engagement partner in respect of the audits on behalf of KPMG (although he was not a partner in the firm). Regard was due to Frankish’s “good” prior disciplinary record and that he was a director at the time of the work in question and not a partner.

The following sanctions have been imposed against KPMG:

A financial sanction of £1.25m (adjusted for aggravating and mitigating factors and discounted for admissions and early disposal to £875k);
A published statement in the form of a Severe Reprimand;
A declaration that the reports signed on behalf of KPMG in respect of the Audits did not satisfy the requirement to conduct the audit in accordance with relevant standards; and
A requirement for KPMG to analyse the underlying causes of the breaches of relevant standards, to identify and implement any remedial measures necessary to prevent a recurrence, and to report to the FRC at each stage of the process.

Additionally, the following sanctions have been imposed against Frankish:

A financial sanction of £50,000 (adjusted for aggravating and mitigating factors and discounted for admissions and early disposal to £35,000);
A published statement in the form of a Severe Reprimand; and
A requirement for Mr Frankish, who moved to another firm in 2017, to analyse the underlying causes of his role in the breaches of relevant standards, to identify and implement any necessary remedial measures as part of his appraisal and personal development arrangements, and to report to the FRC at each stage of the process.

KPMG will also pay executive counsel’s costs of the investigation.

Jamie Symington, deputy executive counsel to the FRC, said: “KPMG’s failings in this case persisted for two years and across multiple areas. They included complex supplier arrangements which the FRC had previously identified as an area of regulatory focus, albeit that in this case their impact on the financial statements was minor.

“The audit client was a newly listed and relatively small company, but the breaches were nevertheless serious, including lack of professional scepticism. The FRC has required KPMG and Frankish to take action to mitigate or prevent breaches recurring. The package of financial and non-financial sanctions should help to improve the quality of future audits.”

A KPMG UK spokesperson added: “We regret that aspects of our 2015 and 2016 audits of Revolution Bars Group Plc fell short of required standards. Our firm is committed to dealing with, and learning from, our historic cases. We have fully cooperated with the FRC throughout their investigation.

“We continue to invest significantly in our business, taking action to address the FRC’s findings and have made significant improvements to our audit procedures through our Audit Quality Transformation Programme, including in respect of supplier rebates, share based payments and deferred tax.”

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