An EY Partner has retained his position at the Big Four company after a disciplinary hearing ruled he had acted in an “obscene and aggressive manner”.
Neil Hutt, who has been working at the firm for 16 years, was found to have made lewd comments towards a trainee accountant on a company skiing trip in January 2019.
According to reports of the incident, Mr. Hutt interrupted a conversation that the female trainee was having with another colleague before asking her “‘What are you doing this afternoon? Because I’m going to f*** you. And then I’m going to f*** [another colleague].”
Later that day, the trainee was discussing an incident when she had been bashed into from behind by a snowboarder.
At this point, Mr. Hutt once again made a sexual advance towards the female colleague, stating “that’s funny because I’ll be bashing you from behind this afternoon.”
The female trainee expressed how, despite trying to ignore Mr. Hutt’s words, she found the comments “offensive and shocking”.
She also added that it was “uncomfortable and embarrassing” to be forced to recount the comments to senior members of the firm as part of the investigation.
The following month (February 2019), in an internal investigation, Mr. Hutt admitted to making these comments though believed he used different wording.
However, claiming he was mortified and embarrassed by his behaviour, he further stated:
I accept that I have taken the joke too far and that it was a stupid thing to say.
As a result of this, EY fined Mr. Hutt £75,000 but allowed him to retain his job on the condition he would attend diversity and inclusion training and be an advocate for the company’s cultural improvement, detailing his behaviour to colleagues and what he had learned.
Additionally, in July 2021, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales carried out a disciplinary hearing to assess whether Mr. Hutt was fit to stay a member.
Rosalind Wright QC, chair of the disciplinary tribunal, said:
The misconduct in this case was aggravated by the extreme difference in age and seniority… in circumstances which the behaviour amounted to an abuse of his position and power.
Egregious behaviour of this nature has no place in the profession and the Tribunal seriously considered whether [Mr Hutt’s] conduct was incompatible with him remaining a member of the profession.
However, ultimately, the panel ruled that there was no risk of Mr. Hutt repeating this conduct and therefore made the decision to allow him to retain his membership of the ICAEW.
Mr. Hutt was fined an additional £7,000 as well as ordered to pay legal costs of £4,895.
A spokesman for Ernst and Young noted that this was a “serious incident which [the company] investigated thoroughly”.
It added EY would “always take disciplinary action against anyone found to be in breach of [the company’s] values and global code of conduct”.