EY faces stiff penalty for employees cheating on ethics exams

SEC cracks down on the professional services network

EY faces stiff penalty for employees cheating on ethics exams

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Ernst & Young LLP (EY) $100 million for violations the professional services network committed regarding the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license examinations.

The charge is for cheating by its audit professionals on exams required to obtain and maintain CPA licenses, and for withholding evidence of this misconduct from the SEC’s Enforcement Division during the division’s investigation of the matter.

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The government agency said that the employer violated a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) rule requiring the firm to maintain integrity in the performance of a professional service, committed acts discreditable to the accounting profession, and failed to maintain an appropriate system of quality control.

“This action involves breaches of trust by gatekeepers within the gatekeeper entrusted to audit many of our Nation’s public companies. It’s simply outrageous that the very professionals responsible for catching cheating by clients cheated on ethics exams of all things,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.

“And it’s equally shocking that Ernst & Young hindered our investigation of this misconduct. This action should serve as a clear message that the SEC will not tolerate integrity failures by independent auditors who choose the easier wrong over the harder right.”

EY admitted that the said violations and that the findings of the SEC provide a basis for the agency to impose remedies against the firm pursuant to Sections 4C(a)(2) and (a)(3) of the Exchange Act and Rules 102(e)(1)(ii) and (iii) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice.

The SEC also required the employer retain two separate independent consultants to help remediate its deficiencies. One consultant will review the firm’s policies and procedures relating to ethics and integrity. The other will review EY’s conduct regarding its disclosure failures, including whether any EY employees contributed to the firm’s failure to correct its misleading submission.

“The SEC will not permit the submission of misleading information or any action that delays or frustrates our mandate to protect investors and our markets,” said Melissa R. Hodgman, associate director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division. “Ernst & Young faces significant sanctions and extensive remediation to ensure that its culture and conduct meet the ethical standards required of those responsible for the integrity of our capital markets.”

In March, PwC Canada said it has taken several remediation steps after 1,200 of its employees were caught cheating on training tests.

Previously, one firm aimed to encourage employees to take ownership of their learning, as well as raise awareness that learning happens every day.

Sixty-eight percent of HR professionals whose companies launched L&D initiatives during the pandemic said they now “request or require” employees to continue developing their competencies in a bid to keep up.

Meanwhile, here’s how to encourage employees to learn at work, according to one expert.

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