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EY’s head of American operations is leaving at a tricky time for the organization

June 1, 2022, 7:29 PM UTC

Kelly Grier, head of EY’s U.S. business, is leaving the company on June 30, while the consulting firm is planning a potentially historic restructuring. Grier’s departure was announced in February, after she informed EY’s U.S. partnership that she wouldn’t seek reelection in October, the Financial Times said.

The FT reports that Grier clashed with global chief executive Carmine Di Sibio ahead of her departure, citing multiple people familiar with the matter, one of whom said they had disagreed over future direction before the restructuring.

EY told the FT Grier had “a record of success” and delivered “significant revenue growth and record earnings while also achieving our highest audit quality results.” Julie Boland, U.S. central region vice chair, was elected to replace her.

Grier became the first woman to lead EY in the U.S. after being elected to a four-year term in 2018, and her unit accounts for about 40% of the global audit and consulting firm’s revenue. She was named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women for three consecutive years dating back to 2019.

Reportedly, Grier and Di Sibio disagreed about the influence of U.S. leadership over global operations, and the financial arrangement between the parent company and EY Global, which pays independent firms to operate under the company’s brand in different countries. Grier may have been a candidate to replace Di Sibio when his term ends in 2023, but that is clearly no longer the case.

This comes as EY is mulling plans to split its advisory and audit operations, in what would be one of the largest shake-ups to a Big Four accounting firm in decades. Three of these firms sold off their consulting arms between 2000 and 2002 before slowly rebuilding them, while Deloitte maintained its consulting division and has grown into the largest of the Big Four as a result. Audit accounted for $13.6 billion of EY’s $40 billion in 2021 revenue, according to the Wall Street Journal

Many believe the conflicts of interest of being involved in auditing and strategy or management consulting are too significant for these companies to continue operating under their current configuration. This includes the SEC, which is investigating the Big Four along with several smaller auditing firms for this conflict between auditing and consulting.

Regarding the potential restructuring or splitting of the company, an EY spokesperson said “we are in the early stages of this evaluation, and no decisions have been made.”

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