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PW troubles not yet over
February, 05th 2010

Price Waterhouse may have heaved a sigh of relief with its auditor Srinivas Talluri getting bail on Thursday, but its legal woes are far from over. On Wednesday, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) banned two chartered accountants associated with Lovelock & Lewes (network firm of Price Waterhouse) for professional misconduct with regard to their audit of the now-collapsed Global Trust Bank.

While one of the CAs, P Ramakrishna is partner with the firm and has been holding fort at Price Waterhouse after S Gopalakrishnans arrest due to his alleged involvement in the Satyam scam, the other, Manish Agarwal was associated with the firm until 2004. At the time of the GTB scam in 2001, Ramakrishna was a senior functionary of Lovelock & Lewes and Manish Agarwal was an assistant manager.

Given the blurred lines between Lovelock & Lewes and PW, Ramakrishna is known in the chartered accountant community as a partner with PW and is a big name. Senior CAs in here say that Ramakrishna had joined PW in the late 80s when it was starting its operations in Hyderabad. Ramakrishna, who is in his mid-50s now rose in position rapidly, with the firm having a clutch of employees and its business not too widespread in Hyderabad.

Manish Agarwal was a junior official then and had played a key role in the GTB audit. Agarwal had joined PW in 1998 as audit senior and quit in August 2003 as deputy manager.

Those who knew him say that in 2003, Agarwal moved to his hometown Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh (now in Chattisgarh) to start his own venture but maintain that his relocation had nothing to do with GTB. He wanted to set up his own practice in his hometown.

However, he is not holding a certificate of practise currently (as per data on his membership on the ICAI website), which means he could be an employee in another firm and not practising as a CA, said a city-based chartered accountant.

The ban on Ramakrishna and Agarwal are for five years and three years respectively but this does not have any significance until ICAI takes the matter to the high courts concerned and gets a verdict.

Lovelock & Lewes in its statement to the ICAI report said: The partner concerned is still to receive a copy of the ICAI Central Council recommendation. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on it. Also, it is our understanding that the high court will give the partner concerned an opportunity to present his case before deciding on the recommendation of the ICAI Central Council.

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