PwC’s UK unit fined €2.1m over BT audit after fraud discovered in Italy

Big Four accountant apologises and says it has made significant investment in strengthening audit quality

Britain’s accounting watchdog said on Monday it had fined auditor PwC £1.75 million sterling (€2.1 million) after it failed to properly challenge telecoms group BT once a half-a-billion-pound fraud was discovered in BT’s Italian operations.

BT’s full-year financial statement for the year ended March 31st, 2017, had to be adjusted by £513 million due to the fraud, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said.

“The sanctions imposed in this case, where certain elements of the adjustments following a fraud were not subject to the required level of professional scepticism, underscore this message and will serve as a timely reminder to the profession,” Claudia Mortimore, deputy executive counsel at the FRC, said in a statement.

PwC said it was sorry that aspects of its audit of BT Group for the year in question were not of the required standard, adding the FRC had not found the accounts were misstated or that the sum of the BT Italy adjustments was wrong.


“We have made significant investment in strengthening audit quality in recent years, which has been recognised in improved quality inspection results,” PwC said.

The fine would have been £2.5 million had PwC not admitted to the breaches and settled early.

Richard Hughes, the partner who led the BT audit, was fined £42,000, avoiding a £60,000 fine after admitting to the breach, the FRC said.

PwC and Mr Hughes also failed to have a sufficient trail of documents that would allow any experienced auditor to understand the nature, timing and extent of the audit procedures performed, the FRC said.