PwC in £60m lawsuit after 'leaking secrets' over a 'quiet coffee'

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Beancounter PwC in £60m lawsuit after ‘leaking client secrets’ over a ‘quiet coffee’

PwC is being sued for more than £60million amid claims that a top figure leaked valuable client secrets over a coffee.

The auditor was supposed to be acting as an adviser to Quindell when the insurer was selling its professional services arm to legal business Slater & Gordon (S&G).

But in High Court documents, a partner at PwC has been accused of passing on highly-sensitive information that led S&G to dramatically cut its bid for the division.

Court fight: Big Four auditor PwC was supposed to be acting as an adviser to Quindell when the scandal-hit insurer was selling its professional services arm to Slater & Gordon

Court fight: Big Four auditor PwC was supposed to be acting as an adviser to Quindell when the scandal-hit insurer was selling its professional services arm to Slater & Gordon

The unnamed PwC partner is said to have agreed to a ‘quiet coffee’ with one of S&G’s financial advisers, Gareth Davies of Greenhill & Co.

At the meeting in January 2015, the PwC partner is said to have revealed that Quindell was on the verge of running out of cash – giving S&G more leverage in the deal talks. 

S&G then slashed its bid for Quindell’s division from £700million to £637million, High Court papers claim. When confronted with the new offer, Quindell’s bosses ‘felt unable to refuse’ because of its desperate position.

Quindell, now known as Watchstone Group, alleges that S&G was ‘influenced and emboldened’ by the secret information and that PwC never informed it about the meeting.

It is demanding £63million in damages from PwC. It also wants to unmask the unnamed partner, who the Mail understands still works at the firm.

After the sale of assets to S&G, Quindell later revealed its accounts had been disastrously misstated, turning an £80million profit into a £375million.

That initially prompted S&G to sue Watchstone for £637million in damages in 2017, claiming it had not been provided information it was due and the value of the division it bought had been overstated.

But Watchstone turned the tables last year when it unearthed emails appearing to show that S&G had been secretly receiving insider information during the deal talks through a ‘back channel’ to the unnamed figure at PwC.

It prompted Watchstone and S&G to call off a nine-week trial, with Watchstone paying an £11million settlement.

Last night a PwC spokesman said the firm denied the allegations and would ‘vigorously’ defend itself.

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