20 January 2019
Members of EY's Hong Kong tax staff published an open letter (right) in Apple Daily. Photo: HKEJ
Members of EY's Hong Kong tax staff published an open letter (right) in Apple Daily. Photo: HKEJ

EY staff publish open letter alleging office politics by partner

EY is battling the fallout from an open letter from members of its tax staff in Hong Kong accusing a partner of engaging in office politics, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday.

The Big Four auditing firm said it will work to resolve an internal dispute in its tax department after the open letter in Apple Daily hit out at a female partner surnamed Ho. 

EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young, said in a reply to media enquiries it has always placed a great emphasis on its people and values communications with its staff. It said each employee is assigned a mentor to facilitate open and honest conversations with fellow employees.

The letter from EY tax staff Wednesday said Ho, newly promoted as a partner, failed to do her job in developing new business and building the EY brand but has instead spent her time on office politics and split the tax team into different camps.

It said she has singlehandedly destroyed the fairness and unity of EY’s tax department and asked how many more warning signs the management needs to see before they will look into the crisis.

Armstrong Lee, director of human resources consulting firm Worldwide Consulting Group, said it is not uncommon for employees to air their frustrations over social media platforms, but to post an ad on newspaper is rather rare.

The incident will definitely have a negative impact on EY, he said, and may discourage potential talent from joining the firm.

Some media reports suggest posting a notice of that size in the newspaper would cost about HK$20,000, so it wasn’t a “storm in a tea cup”.

“For people to actually spend real dollars to vent their anger means that the situation has gone over their limit and they found it unbearable,” one netizen was quoted as saying.

Professor Huang Xu of the department of management and marketing at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University said while whistle-blowing is common in companies overseas, local employees should be aware of the risk associated in sharing negative views of their company on the internet.

If their identity is exposed, they could be blacklisted by potential employers, Huang said.

Some human resources consultants said whistle-blowing can often result in a lose-lose scenario in which the company’s image is degraded and the personal reputation of the whistle-blowers is also affected.

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