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LONDON — Bill Michael, U.K. chairman of accounting giant KPMG, has quit his role after telling staff to stop moaning about the coronavirus pandemic during a virtual meeting earlier this week.
KPMG on Friday confirmed that Michael, who has headed up the U.K. firm since 2017, had resigned from his role.
Speaking in a virtual town hall on Monday, Michael told staff that having spoken to partners and employees at different levels in the firm “it almost feels like this is being done to them,” referring to their experience of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Well, you can’t play the role of victim unless you’re sick and I hope you’re not sick, you’re not ill, and if you’re not, take control of your life,” he said. “Don’t sit there and moan about it, quite frankly,” Michael said.
Michael also described unconscious bias as “complete crap,” adding that he believed there was “no such thing.”
In a statement released Friday about his departure, Michael said that he was “truly sorry that my words have caused hurt amongst my colleagues and for the impact the events of this week have had on them.”
It was because of this incident that Michael said he now found his position as chairman “untenable” and had decided to leave KPMG. He added that he was “hugely proud” of what KPMG staff had achieved, “particularly during these very challenging times.”
Bina Mehta, a senior elected board member, has stepped in as acting chair, while Mary O’Connor, head of clients and markets, has taken on Michael’s day-to-day executive responsibilities.
In Michael’s biography on KPMG’s website, it said he had “spearheaded KPMG’s work relating to the financial crisis and championed the debate about bank culture and standards and the need for change in the industry.”