Colman denies probe into auditors' luxury apartments
SIR Anthony Colman, lone commissioner in the enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and four of its subsidiaries, yesterday denied claims he was investigating the purchase of properties by PricewaterhouseCoopers auditors.
It was reported in Newsday yesterday that Colman had sought legal advice over disclosures that four of the 14 partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers own luxury apartments in One Woodbrook Place—a development built by CL Financial subsidiary Home Construction Ltd.
PricewaterhouseCoopers was the auditor of the conglomerate and several of its subsidiaries.
Judith Gonzalez, secretary for the commission, sent a release on the issue, denying allegations made in the article. "The attention of Sir Anthony Colman, commissioner in the CLICO/HCU enquiry, has been drawn to a report in today's Newsday that he sought legal advice and (Tuesday) called a meeting of counsel to the enquiry for the purpose of discussing issues raised by disclosures relating to the ownership by partners in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) of certain apartments in a development built by a subsidiary of CLF. This article described the commissioner as currently in Singapore," the release stated.
"The commissioner wishes to make it clear that he has not called a meeting of counsel or arranged a teleconference to discuss this matter. Nor is he in Singapore. He does not consider the purchase of these properties as conduct falling within the terms of reference of the enquiry and will not be investigating it," the release added.
And the local arm of the international auditing firm broke its silence on the issue. Sean Ramirez, territory assurance leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers T&T, said there was "no breach in professional ethics" in relation to the ownership of the One Woodbrook Place apartments by the partners.
"There were no self-interest threats, as the units were purchased at prices that are available to the public and hence there was no personal financial gain from their positions as partners in the audit firm," Ramirez stated. He said all applicable stamp duty was paid to the relevant authorities.
Ramirez said the transactions were in adherence to international ethical standards and best practices, in particular, the code issued by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants.
"Partners' decisions to purchase property in their own names and to conduct personal transactions are just that—their personal decisions," he said. "All partners and staff are fully aware of the firm's independence policies and code of conduct through regular training, alerts and completion of annual confirmations."
He said the transactions were conducted at an arm's length basis.