Big 4 Firms Condemn Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, But Will They Sever Relationships With Any Russian Clients?

While all the Big 4 firms and some of their leaders throughout the world have pledged their support for Ukraine and denounced Russia’s invasion and assault of its neighbor, they’ve kept quiet on whether they’ll end any client relationships in Putinville.

Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG have offices in both Russia and Ukraine. The Big 4 can release statements and make posts on social media about how they “stand with Ukraine,” but will they, as billion-dollar global brands, just walk away from certain clients in Russia? Like Delonte “Ghost” Rivers said in the movie Takers: “Aye, business is business. And money is money. I never said we were friends.”

The silence from three-fourths of the global CEOs of the Big 4 firms (Punit Renjen of Deloitte, Bob Moritz of PwC, and Bill Thomas of KPMG) on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine speaks volumes. The only one who has publicly said anything about it is Carmine Di Sibio of EY:

But the leaders of some of the Big 4’s global competitors in the consulting world have actually come out and said they no longer will serve any government entity or do any new government work in Russia.

As Bloomberg noted today, sanctions imposed by the US, UK, and European Union in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are forcing professional services firms globally to consider whether they should continue working with Russian clients who are state-owned. Several law firms said they are reviewing and, in some cases, planning to cut ties with major Russian clients as pressure mounts to comply with sanctions. [See this Above the Law article.]

So far that we’ve seen, Jon Holt, CEO of KPMG UK, is the only leader of a Big 4 firm who said publicly there will be client relationships that will be ending due to the situation in Ukraine, although he didn’t mention Russia by name. Holt wrote in a post on LinkedIn: “We are reviewing and adapting our client work and operations to align with sanctions and comply with all new laws. This will mean ending some of our client relationships in the UK and globally. The situation is fast-moving and is being kept under close review on a daily basis.”

In regards to the firm’s employees in Ukraine, Holt wrote: “First and foremost, we’re focused on the health and safety of our people and their families. KPMG is a global firm with offices in Kyiv and across the region. We’re in constant dialogue with our local colleagues to support them through this period, and our member firms are working to ensure they are able to provide all necessary support and assistance to them.”

In a statement on Twitter, KPMG’s global HQ didn’t say anything about potentially severing ties with clients in Russia: “KPMG around the world is also fully adhering to the sanctions introduced by various governments, which hopefully will contribute to bringing an end to this crisis.”

PwC’s official statement only addresses its support for the firm’s colleagues in Ukraine:

Deloitte has been very quiet regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; the firm hasn’t released an official statement about the situation. At least Richard Houston, CEO of Deloitte UK, addressed what’s happening in Ukraine, writing on a post on LinkedIn: “Deloitte North & South Europe is united with our Global network in providing support to our colleagues and their families in the region, alongside helping wider humanitarian efforts. We unequivocally deplore Russia’s military invasion of the country and its absolute disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.”

And it’s been interesting reading the comments below Houston’s post. In summary, his followers/connections on LinkedIn said social media posts of Ukraine support are nice and all, but Deloitte should no longer do business in Russia. Actions speak louder than words.

EY is the only one of the Big 4 firms to actually post a statement regarding the crisis in Ukraine on its global website. But like the others, EY sidestepped the issue about the future of its Russia-related work: “As a global organization, we are working with relevant governments to comply with the recently enacted country policies and applicable sanctions.” EY’s full statement says:

We denounce the war in Ukraine and condemn the violation of international law. We are deeply concerned by the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine. The Russian military invasion in Ukraine is in direct opposition to the values that are core to our organization. It has, and will continue to cause, a great deal of suffering across Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Russia, and elsewhere. We urge all parties to work towards a peaceful resolution.

From the outset of this crisis, we have been primarily focused on the safety of EY people in Ukraine and colleagues outside of Ukraine who have family and friends in the midst of this ongoing military conflict. We have been determined to bring the full support an organization such as ours can bring – to help those who want to leave, as well as those who have had to, or have chosen to, stay. We have been deeply moved by the outpouring of support across our organization for those suffering as a result of this war. Our EY family is pulling together in ways both large and small to support those impacted. As a global organization, we are working with relevant governments to comply with the recently enacted country policies and applicable sanctions.

We’ll update this article if any new information appears regarding the Big 4’s future (and future client work) in Russia.

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