By Huw Jones
(Reuters) - KPMG was fined 14.4 million pounds ($17.27 million) on Monday after the accounting firm admitted to providing false and misleading information to its regulator during spot checks on audits of construction firm Carillion and outsourcing firm Regenersis.
The Financial Reporting Council, the regulator involved, also ordered KPMG to appoint an independent reviewer into the firm's current Audit Quality Review (AQR) policies and procedures.
KPMG would have been fined 20 million pounds had it not earned a discount for self-reporting the incidents, co-operating with the FRC and admitting to the misconduct, the FRC said.
Without the discount, the fine would have been the largest FRC fine ever, eclipsing Deloitte's 15 million pound penalty in September 2020 for an audit of software company Autonomy.
KPMG, one of the world's "Big Four" auditing firms, also paid 3.95 million pounds towards the costs of the FRC and Tribunal.
Five KPMG employees had challenged FRC allegations of misconduct relating to the audits, but an independent Tribunal found against them. A sixth employee settled hours before Tribunal hearings began in January.
The FRC had told the hearing that the former KPMG employees had "forged" and "manufactured" missing documents which had been requested by the regulator.
"The seriousness of the misconduct that we have found proved scarcely needs explanation," the Tribunal said.
KPMG faced the same allegations as its employees because it is liable for their conduct.
Four of the five staff who took part in the Tribunal hearing were fined between 30,000 and 250,000 pounds, and banned from the profession for between seven and 10 years. The fifth person was severely reprimanded but escaped a fine.
"I accept the findings and sanctions of the tribunal in full," said KPMG's chief executive in the UK, Jon Holt.
Since the incidents, KPMG said it has worked hard and with complete transparency to the FRC, to assure itself that the behaviour of the individuals concerned does not reflect the wider culture of the firm, Holt said.
The FRC is still investigating KPMG's audit of Carillion, whose collapse sparked reviews on how to improve auditing standards.
($1 = 0.8356 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Louise Heavens)