Big Four engaged in ‘unfair competition’, says Newman

The Big Four may be behaving in a predatory manner to drive off the challenge
from the mid-tier, the managing partner of
BDO Stoy
has suggested in some of the most explosive comments yet on the UK
dominance of the Big Four.

Stoy Hayward
said that his firm had been beaten to a due diligence contract
recently after a Big Four firm slashed its fees to a third of its original pitch
to win the work.

The suggestions will raise further questions about the dominance of the Big
Four, who have pulled away from their mid-tier rivals in revenue terms, figures
compiled for Accountancy Age are set to show.

detailed on his blog how a Big Four firm had brought their fee down
to £220,000 after originally pitching at more than £600,000. BDO had made an
initial pitch capping its potential fee at £200,000 and eventually lost the

According to Newman, the company – a UK subsidiary of a continental group –
was told to discuss the fees position further with the Big Four firm, who agreed
to reduce their fees. ‘Maybe, just maybe, this is “unfair” competition.’

‘Maybe, just maybe, this is “predatory” pricing designed to force us out of
competing in this sector of the market place,’ ha said.

The Big Four are highly sensitive to charges that the market for UK
accountancy services, and audit in particular, is uncompetitive. The Oxera
review concluded there was no lack of competition and the term was dropped from
the FRC review, which is now only into ‘audit choice’.

Newman said he would not refer the incident to the Competition Commission,
but had published the details to stimulate debate.

A spokesman for the commission said this week: ‘The Competition Commission is
well aware of concerns with regard to the Big Four but price discrimination can
in different circumstances be seen as both pro and anti competitive.’

None of the Big Four commented as Accountancy Age went to press.

Related reading