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EY Outlines Plans to Split Auditing and Consulting Businesses

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Sep 7, 2022

By Avi1111 dr. avishai teicher - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

In what The Wall Street Journal is calling “the biggest shake-up in the accounting profession in more than 20 years,” Ernst & Young is expected to divide its auditing and consulting businesses into two separate entities.

The firm’s executive committee is expected to approve the plan, which its roughly 13,000 partners will then vote on. The Journal noted that each audit partner could make an average “windfall” of a million dollars. That is in addition to average earnings of $850,000 to $900,000 per partner. Consulting partners are promised shares in the new company, which are predicted to be worth seven to nine times their annual compensation, paid out over five years.

EY Global Chairman and CEO Carmine Di Sibio, the mastermind of the proposal, could be in line for a payout of tens of millions of dollars.

The Journal reviewed a proposal submitted in May, which envisioned dividing the $45 billion-revenue global network roughly 60:40 between the consulting business and the audit-focused partnership. The latter would retain the EY brand and continue to check the books and financial statements of companies. The new consulting entity would advise companies on technology, deals and other issues.

One financial advantage of the plan is that it would free consultants from independence rules that restrict the work of accounting firms for audit clients. The estimate is that consultants would be able to compete for new business that could be worth billions of dollars.

Regulatory hurdles would remain once the firm’s global network of roughly 140 countries votes on the plan later this year and into next. If the decision is made to approve the split, the deal would need the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which would also look at the new entity’s branding. According to the Journal, SEC Acting Chief Economist Paul Munter has said that the two businesses can’t share any marketing or advertising.

That branding will cost EY.

Andersen Consulting spent “millions and millions and millions of dollars” on its successful rebranding as Accenture, Kennedy Research Reports Managing Director Tom Rodenhauser told the Journal. “EY consulting will have to make that same kind of investment.”

So far, the other three Big Four firms do not have immediate plans to follow suit. A Deloitte spokesman told the Journal that the firm “will not separate and split our businesses and we will not monetize our collective life’s work.” In a statement, KPMG said that its current model brings a “range of benefits,” while PricewaterhouseCoopers said it is “fully committed” to its multidisciplinary strategy.

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