An EY partner has escaped being stricken off, after telling a female trainee “I’ll be bashing you from behind this afternoon,” on a company skiing trip, according to reports.
Neil Hutt was found to have behaved in an “obscene and aggressive” manner, by a disciplinary hearing into the 51-year-old’s behaviour at an annual company trip in January 2019, according to The Times, which first reported the news today.
But the UK’s professional body for accountants, which in July found Hutt guilty of misconduct, chose not to rescind his membership.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) deemed there would be no risk of Hutt, who currently leads an EY transaction support team, repeating his behaviour.
Hutt’s comments to the junior female colleague “amounted to an abuse of his position and power,” said Rosalind Wright QC, who chaired the disciplinary tribunal, in a judgement published at the end of last week.
“Egregious behaviour of this nature has no place in the profession,” she said. The tribunal, she added, had “seriously” considered striking Hutt from membership of the professional body.
But ultimately the tribunal was “satisfied that the public interest could be adequately protected by severely reprimanding [Mr Hutt] and imposing a financial penalty”.
Hutt was instead fined £7,000 and ordered to pay legal costs of £4,895.
The partner, employed by EY for 16 years, made a series of lewd comments to a female junior colleague including interrupting a conversation during lunch to tell her: “What are you doing this afternoon? Because I’m going to **** you. And then I’m going to **** [another colleague].”
After an internal investigation in which Hutt said he had “taken a joke too far,” EY handed the accountant a £75,000 fine but allowed him to stay in his position after Hutt agreed to attend training on diversity and inclusiveness.
The female trainee found the investigation process, which took place one month after the incident, “’uncomfortable and embarrassing” as she was forced to repeat Hutt’s remarks to senior EY colleagues.
The investigation panel were told “increasing rumours around the office had left her feeling isolated and publicity about the incident had significantly increased her embarrassment and shame to the extent she had found it difficult coming into work.”
“As the ICAEW notes this was a serious incident which we investigated thoroughly and resulted in EY imposing sanctions,” said an EY spokesperson today in a statement.
The accounting giant “takes these matters very seriously and will always take disciplinary action against anyone found to be in breach of our values,” the spokesperson added.