In a major setback to auditing firm Price Waterhouse, already under fire for its role in the Satyam scam, two of its partners have been found guilty of "professional misconduct" by the disciplinary committee of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) in the auditing of Global Trust Bank (GTB) that collapsed in 2004. Sources said one of the auditors found guilty is S Gopalakrishnan (though it could not be confirmed), the partner who also audited Satyam's books and has been suspended by Price Waterhouse.
ICAI president Uttam Prakash Aggarwal told TOI that the disciplinary committee had completed the hearing in two of the three financial years being looked into. "Two partners have been found guilty of professional misconduct. The disciplinary committee will now be submitting the report to the ICAI Council for further action," he said, though refusing to identify them.
Aggarwal said the council will now look into the report, but will also give "one more opportunity" to the partners to respond. "We have to follow the stipulated process," he said, justifying the step in the wake of criticism that ICAI has been very slow in taking action.
Sources said the partners could face "serious action" as the disciplinary committee is believed to have pointed to questionable lapses. However, there may not be any immediate action, especially as Gopalakrishnan is in jail over his role in the Satyam audit and thus may not explain his position immediately. In any case, the council will take its time to agree, or disagree, with the disciplinary committee and the decision it takes would have to be approved by a high court.
Price Waterhouse was accused of negligence in auditing the books of GTB and failing to detect huge levels of non-performing assets NPAs. The NPAs had accumulated due to massive exposure made by the erstwhile bank into the stock market which Price Waterhouse auditors are alleged to have overlooked. RBI had complained to ICAI about the auditors work in 2004 and the ICAI referred the issue to the disciplinary committee in August 2007