Partner, 51, at accountancy firm Ernst and Young is allowed to keep his job after telling female trainee ‘I am going to f*** you’ while on company ski trip
- Neil Hutt was found to have behaved in ‘obscene and aggressive’ manner on trip
- Hutt told junior colleague he was going to ‘f***’ her during company’s trip away
- Partner of 16 years at Ernst & Young was handed a financial penalty but kept job
- Now a disciplinary panel has ruled not to strike him off as chartered accountant
- A panel said behaviour ‘aggravated by extreme difference in age and seniority’
A partner at a Big Four accounting firm has escaped being kicked out of the profession despite telling a female trainee ‘I’ll be bashing you from behind this afternoon’ while on a company ski trip.
Neil Hutt, a partner of 16 years with Ernst & Young, was found to have behaved in an ‘obscene and aggressive’ fashion when he remarked to the junior colleague at lunch ‘I’m going to f*** you’, a disciplinary hearing found.
The female trainee was left ‘shocked and disappointed’ following the 51-year-old’s remarks on an annual EY ski trip for partners and staff, the panel was told.
Following an investigation in which he said he had ‘taken a joke too far’ the partner was fined £75,000 by the firm but kept his job after agreeing to attend diversity and inclusiveness training.
Neil Hutt, a partner of 16 years with Ernst & Young, has been allowed to keep his job after a panel found to he behaved in an ‘obscene and aggressive’ fashion towards a junior colleague
Now the disciplinary panel of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has ruled not to strike him off, as they said there would be no risk of him repeating his behaviour.
The hearing was told Mr Hutt qualified as an accountant in 1992 and became a partner at EY in 2005.
Currently based in Reading, Berks, he leads the EY Transaction Support team for the telecommunications, media and technology sectors.
The tribunal heard EY organised a ski trip for members of staff and partners in January 2019, which has become an annual event for the firm.
A trainee accountant – who had had little contact with Mr Hutt previously – also attended.
The panel was told that during lunch on one of the days of this trip, the trainee was having a conversation with a colleague.
The tribunal heard it was at this point Mr Hutt interrupted and said: ‘What are you doing this afternoon? Because I’m going to f*** you. And then I’m going to f*** [another colleague].’
The tribunal heard the trainee felt ‘shocked and disappointed’ by the remark but tried to hide her emotions.
Mr Hutt told a disciplinary panel he had taken a joke too far. The panel found that his behaviour was aggravated by ‘the extreme difference in age and seniority’ at Ernst and Young (pictured)
After the lunch while the group was sitting outside having drinks, the trainee was discussing an incident that had happened earlier in the day when she had been ‘bashed’ into from behind by a snowboarder.
Mr Hutt interrupted her and said: ‘Ha ha, that’s funny because I’ll be bashing you from behind this afternoon.’
The tribunal heard she tried to ignore the comment but found it ‘offensive and shocking’.
EY conducted an internal investigation which the female trainee found ‘uncomfortable and embarrassing’ as she had to recount what was said to senior members of the firm.
The panel heard ‘increasing rumours around the office had left her feeling isolated and publicity about the incident had significantly increased her embarrassment and shame to the extent she had found it difficult coming into work’.
Mr Hutt was interviewed in February 2019 during the internal investigation.
He admitted using the words alleged by the female trainee, except he thought he had said ‘shag’ rather than ‘f***’.
He also ‘accepted that he had taken the joke too far and that it was a stupid thing to say’, adding that he was ‘mortified and embarrassed’ by what had happened.
In March 2019 the firm gave Mr Hutt a final written warning and a financial penalty.
He was also ordered to attend diversity and inclusiveness training and to agree to be an advocate for the firm’s cultural improvement, including talking to peers about his conduct and what he had learned.
The ICAEW found Mr Hutt guilty of misconduct following a hearing in July.
In a judgment published at the end of last week, 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.
‘The Tribunal considered that the conduct set out in the complaint was both obscene and aggressive.
‘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.
‘Had the Tribunal been of the view there was a risk of repetition it would have no option but to exclude him from membership of ICAEW.
‘On balance, however, the Tribunal was satisfied that the public interest could be adequately protected by severely reprimanding [Mr Hutt] and imposing a financial penalty.’
The tribunal fined Mr Hutt £7,000 and ordered him to pay legal costs of £4,895.
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