Moulton: Big Four firm charged £1.2m for disclaimer

A Big Four firm charged £1.2m in due diligence fees after saying that it
could not gain access to the accounts, a senior private equity figure has said.

Jon Moulton, head of
Alchemy Partners,
launched a stinging assault on the value of corporate finance work carried out
by the Big Four, and revealed the astonishing charge, effectively for nothing
more than what he called a ‘disclaimer’.

Moulton said: ‘They can just issue this disclaimer, which says that they had
not been able to do any validation. We’re in the quite ridiculous situation that
firms can say “we’ve done a lot less work than an audit, but we’ll charge you
six to ten times as much”.’

The private equity boss did not name the firm in question: ‘The report, from
a Big Four firm, said “we’ve had no access to the accounting records of the
company”. Thank you very much for £1.2m of opinion.’

None of the Big Four would comment on the issue this week when contacted by
Accountancy Age. One corporate financier said this week that a failure
to gain access to the accounts was rare, but that it did happen where companies
were sensitive about opening up their books to rivals. He added that the bill
was ‘very surprising’.

Moulton told delegates at CIMA’s annual conference that there had been a
complete collapse in accounting due diligence at the height of the private
equity boom: ‘We have seen in the last two-year bubble [of private equity
buyouts] a loss of integrity in the system and we have seen excess. We have seen
a complete collapse in due diligence.’

Moulton also forecast much lower fees for Big Four advisory partners as the
market cooled and private equity players demanded better efforts to access
company books.

Related reading

PwC office 2