Three former KPMG audit partners have settled charges that they cheated on internal training exams by improperly sharing answers.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Timothy Daly received answers to a test on lease accounting from Michael Bellach while John Donovan supported exam sharing within his audit engagement team.
The charges of violating auditor integrity rules against the three accountants came nearly a year after KPMG was fined $50 million, in part for violations relating to exam-sharing misconduct by auditors.
To settle their cases, Daly, Bellach and Donovan all agreed to be suspended from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant, which includes not participating in the financial reporting or audits of public companies.
“Audit professionals play a critical role in the integrity of the financial reporting process and the protection of investors,” Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a news release. “These actions reflect our commitment to hold these gatekeepers responsible for breaches of their professional obligations.”
According to a KPMG spokesperson, “The actions against individuals who were separated from our firm more than a year ago was an expected development following the firm’s settlement with the SEC last June. We are a stronger firm as a result of the actions we are taking to strengthen our culture, governance, and compliance program. We are committed to delivering the highest quality professional services and fulfilling our important role in the capital markets.”
KPMG administers its own set of online training programs that also qualify for continuing education credit. Each program concludes with an exam that auditors have three opportunities to pass.
According to an SEC administrative order, Daly learned from Bellach, the second partner on a significant KPMG engagement for which he was lead partner, in September 2018 that the lease accounting test was difficult.
“Bellach also told Daly he had pictures of the questions and his responses that he had taken after he failed his first attempt for his own use in preparing to retake the exam,” the SEC said.
In early October 2018, Daly allegedly sent Bellach a text message asking for the photographs and Bellach allegedly texted them to him.
The SEC also said that after KPMG began an internal investigation into potential cheating on exams, Daly deleted the photos and encouraged Bellach to do the same.
Donovan was charged with receiving answers to training exams from subordinates on his engagement team on seven occasions and sharing answers with his team three times.