KPMG UAE holds meetings with clients after dispute over governance

The managing director of KPMG’s UAE business held face-to-face meetings with key clients in a bid to boost confidence in the firm after weeks of management turmoil and governance complaints .

Nader Haffar, head of KPMG Lower Gulf since 2018, and other senior firm executives held the meetings and sent letters to key clients after the Financial Times revealed that key partners had left the firm after raising concerns. internal governance concerns.

The meetings with customers were flagged in an internal memo sent to staff, seen by the FT, which also advised the company’s 1,300 staff on how to address ‘talking points’ with customers s’ they were raising questions about the company’s recent turmoil.

The note was sent last week by Talal Cheikh Elard, Head of Clients and Markets, to all staff at KPMG Lower Gulf.

Cheikh Elard is Haffar’s brother-in-law and some senior partners have expressed concern over the chief executive’s recent attempt to give his relative a more powerful role. These senior partners were then forced out of the business.

Haffar was also accused of taking advantage of weak governance at KPMG Lower Gulf to extend his term for another five years through short-term elections without an opposition candidate. Meanwhile, whistleblowers have complained to KPMG International about the intemperate behavior of Haffar and Cheikh Elard.

Last week, KPMG Lower Gulf announced it would hire a law firm to conduct a review of its governance and oversee a re-election for chief executive and chairman. Haffar has confirmed that he will run for this election.

KPMG Lower Gulf declined to confirm whether it would release the findings of the governance review.

KPMG Lower Gulf serves 3,400 clients, according to figures cited by Haffar to staff. They include Dubai World, an investment firm that acts for the Dubai government, and Majid Al Futtaim Group, an Emirati property and retail conglomerate. The firm also advises the sovereign wealth funds ADQ and Mubadala Investment Company, as well as the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

Some current and former partners have said the rerun of the elections risks being a farce. The concern is that anyone who stands up to Haffar could quickly be ousted if they lose and credible potential challengers have already left.

Haffar told KPMG Lower Gulf staff that “eligible candidates” from the current partnership would be invited to run against him. The company declined to answer questions about which partners would be considered eligible or who would decide which names to include on the ballot. He did not reveal the timing of the election.

“Our governance and values ​​are a critical part of who we are, and we take any questions raised about their rigor very seriously,” KPMG Lower Gulf said, adding that it would “embrace any changes we need to ensure that our company offers the best for our employees, our customers and society at large”.

He said his board had agreed to a request from Haffar to hold a new election and that Haffar meanwhile had the “full support” of the board as leader.

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