For some years now I have been considering the concept of complicity. What constitutes complicity, how far does it extend, where does responsibility for wrongdoing cease? You can all blame me for putting the idea in Bakchos’ mind; his knowledge of philosophy and my practical view of the world result in many discussions ranging somewhere between law, moral conduct and personal accountability.
My mind is geared to science. An analytical and reasoned thought process lies at the heart of much of what I do. I struggle to comprehend gross violations of human rights let alone failure to take responsibility for the harms a person causes to another. I reason much of what we do to each other simply as greed, underpinned by an over enthusiastic sense of self-preservation. When we have more than someone else, it’s easier to feel safe from the vagaries that disrupt the stability of others. Quality of life is as important, possibly more so than life itself.
Nothing much has really changed in the past several thousand years when it comes to self-preservation. Having more food, an opulent house, beautiful clothes are things we desire, but more important is the regard with which others view us. When we leave this life, the only thing that we can ever claim, painted rightly or wrongly, is our reputation. Regardless of the wealth we accumulate, history will mold for us the memory that we deserve rather than one we may seek to buy.
Complicity and its severity must be judged according the degree of harm and the ability of a secondary party to influence the behaviour of a potential offender. Thomas Aquinas divided complicity into nine categories:
- Commanded – directing a person to perform a harmful act against another;
- Participatory – Being asked to and actively engaging in the wrongful act;
- Counseled – knowing the intentions of and enabling the perpetrator by providing information about how to carry out a harmful act;
- Consensual – providing tacit support to the perpetrator by a request to overlook irregularities by the perpetrator;
- Flattery – praising the perpetrator of a potential or actual harmful act;
- Through receipt – not receiving proceeds of a crime, but rather receiving the perpetrator and diverting or covering up the wrongdoing;
- Silent – failing to acknowledge the harmful act;
- Failure to prevent harm – when it is possible to prevent harm, essentially enabling the perpetrator to commit the harmful act;
- Failure to denounce the harmful act – differs from silent complicity, in that something is said, but the harmful behaviour of the perpetrator is not actively denounced.
The first two types of complicity are rated as the most severe. Responsibility for the final outcome lies equally with both the perpetrator of the crime and the complicit party. Ernst & Young fall squarely into the category of participation when reviewing their role in the evils that befell “Pat”, the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue.
In 2002, Ernst & Young failed in their duty of care to protect Pat from the racist attacks of a subordinate (the “Inquisitor”) seeking to undermine his then boss. Disaffected at failing to achieve promotion to the role of Commissioner for ACT Revenue himself, the Inquisitor set upon a campaign to oust Pat from the role he had successfully and legitimately applied for and won. Part of the racist attack involved manipulating files and documents about Pat by altering details. Before this could be done however, the Inquisitor needed to first access files held by the human resources department within the ACT public service and Pat’s other former employers, so he wrote to both the ANZ Bank and Ernst & Young. The Bank, showing some mental alertness and a high level of corporate responsibility, investigated before providing the Inquisitor with access to any documents. Upon discovering that the inquirer was not authorized to request Pat’s personnel file, they refused access. Two other entities failed – Ernst & Young and the ACT’s own human resources department.
Ernst & Young, despite express advice to the contrary from Pat under instruction from his lawyers Bradley Allen, provided the Inquisitor with access to Pat’s personnel file. This was facilitated by Tania Taylor and approved by Gillian Moffatt, the Manager of Human Resources at Ernst & Young. The complicity is worsened by the Inquisitor’s assertion that Ernst & Young were aware that he was acting on a personal enquiry without proper authority, a comment made to the then Executive Director ACT Treasury, Mr Glen Gaskell. You would think those two facts would be enough, but if allegations that Tania Taylor also manipulated documents within Pat’s file are correct, the severity of the complicity and culpability of Ernst & Young is of the most heinous kind.
The other party that enabled the Inquisitor to racially undermine the former Commissioner was Louise Fitzgerald, the then Manager of Corporate Services. With the appointment of Pat to the Commissioner’s role, Louise Fitzgerald would have had full appreciation of the other applicants and should have protected the files from potentially malicious hands. Instead, she provided the Inquisitor with access to Pat’s file, setting the final piece of groundwork for the PID submitted alleging Pat’s falsification of qualifications.
The question of why ACT Treasury would allow all this to happen comes back to the missing $130 million, identified by Pat as having been transferred to the Marrickville branch of the Australian Labor Party. Rather than deal with the corruption and subsequent leadership ramifications, it was easier to allow the Indigenous man to be professionally, mentally and physically accosted, dismissed from the ACT public service and subjected to yet further denigration and harassment at the hands of the Inquisitor and the Australian Federal Police whose own complicity is evident in their receipt and failure to denounce the attacks of the perpetrator.
It’s a sordid tale indeed. And Ernst & Young, a private entity with supposedly nothing to gain from the alleged crimes, are at the very heart of the whole thing. They can publish their statements denouncing the intimidation of their presumed former employee Tom Payne and they can pretend they’ve moved on, but the harm done to Pat and his family is ongoing. The active enablement and ongoing silence about what happened to Pat is the legacy that, in my mind, mars the reputation of Ernst & Young. It really does makes you wonder how they can be seen as a responsible corporation. It also makes you wonder why any other company or individual would be interested in dealing with the Big 4 accounting firm, given their inability to assure the security of personal information.
Complicity comes in many forms, but this is a clear cut case of a major international accounting firm that pushes its corporate credentials, including its diversity and human rights position, as marking it as socially responsible and responsive. I don’t trust liars and I certainly do not appreciate hypocrites. Ernst & Young are the Janus of the Big 4 accounting firms, tarnished by the brush of expediency, more concerned about public standing than individual rights. Well, you can’t have it both ways, EY. Respect must be earned and without it, reputation suffers. Tread on the rights of the little man, fail to speak up for him and your own reputation deserves to be judged harshly. History is catching up with you and many, many people are watching.
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