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Satyam scandal fallout: SEBI bars PriceWaterhouse from corporate audits for two years

14 January 2018

In its order, SEBI said while PwC's "loose-knit network arrangement" enabled partner firms to derive the advantage of its global brand value but did not lay down any supervisory mechanisms to check the quality of the performance of the firms.

Sebi also ordered PW Bangalore and its two erstwhile partners to disgorge wrongful gains of Rs13.09 crore with an interest of 12 per cent per annum from 7 January 2009, till the date of payment.

"Listed companies and intermediaries registered with Sebi shall not engage any firm forming part of the PW network for issuing any certificate with respect to compliance of statutory obligations which Sebi is competent to administer and enforce, under various laws for a period of two years", Sebi said in its 108-page order.

The order comes into force with immediate effect.

"The SEBI order relates to a fraud that took place almost a decade ago in which we played no part and had no knowledge of", Price Waterhouse said in a release.

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PwC overlooked "several red flags.which were all too obvious for any reasonable professional auditor to miss", the Indian regulator said in its ruling published on Wednesday.

SEBI had in February 2009 issued a show-cause notice to Price Waterhouse, among other entities, after it emerged that Satyam's accounts were falsified.

"The SEBI order relates to a fraud that took place almost a decade ago in which we played no part and had no knowledge of".

"There has been no intentional wrongdoing by PW firms in the unprecedented management perpetrated fraud at Satyam, nor have we seen any material evidence to the contrary", said Price Waterhouse, adding it was confident of getting a court to stay the order before it becomes effective.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India said that PwC was complicit with the main perpetrators of the accounting fraud at Satyam Computer Services nine years ago, and it was found that audit firm did not comply with the auditing standards and norms.

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At the time, chairman Byrraju Ramalinga Raju confessed he made up about $1bn of the company's cash on its books.

Coincidentally, SEBI order has come in the same month as the then Satyam chief Ramaliga Raju's admission of guilt to SEBI on January 7, 2009.

Satyam, which was bought by Indian IT firm Tech Mahindra in an auction in 2010, and PricewaterhouseCoopers agreed in 2011 to pay a combined $17.5 million to settle USA probes into the fraud.

The decision responds to a fraud perpetuated by Satyam Computer Services and discovered in 2009 which is often compared to the US Enron scandal.

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Satyam scandal fallout: SEBI bars PriceWaterhouse from corporate audits for two years