Radical changes for Big Five, says Ernst & Young chief in wake of consultancy sell-off

Speaking after E&Y agreed to sell its management consultancy arm to IT group, Land said the clampdown by the US Securities and Exchange Commission on audit conflicts of interest had helped drive the sale.

And he warned that the enforced sale of consulting businesses may force another round of mergers – this time among Big Five audit arms. ‘You will see the Big Five looking very different within the next 12-18 months because strategic drivers and increasing regulatory pressures are going to lead to one conclusion,’ he said.

The deal, thought to be the biggest in consulting history, includes a ‘non-compete provision’ that will prevent E&Y undertaking consultancy work for five years. The company can use the E&Y brand name for up to four years .

Completion of the deal is not expected for several months. E&Y partners in around 30 national firms have to vote on whether to proceed.

E&Y consulting chief Clive Williams will move to an unspecified senior post at the new business.

The move comes less than two weeks after PricewaterhouseCoopers announced plans to separate its consulting arm from its audit business. KPMG announced it would incorporate its consulting arm earlier this year, with Cisco Systems taking a $1bn stake.

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