Former KPMG chair Bill Michael
Former KPMG chair Bill Michael (Image: KPMG)

From London to Tokyo to Washington this week there’s been yet another wave of reckoning for powerful men behaving badly.

But for the woke brigade it’s been a mixed week, with not all the scalps being the ones they expected.

Let’s start with London with the demise of a powerful corporate leader. Unlike many other cases, this did not involve groping, dick-pics or any harassment allegations — it was just your basic boorish, middle-aged executive blowing himself up with his own words.

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The fact he is also an Australian adds piquancy.

UK KPMG chair Bill Michael resigned after a recent town hall morale meeting with staff where he told them to “stop playing the victim card” and accused them of “moaning” about their lockdown conditions.

To make matters worse he boasted about meeting clients for coffee — in direct contravention of the UK lockdown laws — and even appeared to be encouraging others to follow suit.

And for good measure the rant added that he thought the whole concept of unconscious bias was “complete and absolute crap”. (The bias about the fact he is an Aussie has certainly not been unconscious.)

Fleet Street and the financial press have relished Michael’s image as a brash, tough-talking, hard-drinking ocker. Note this from the staid Daily Telegraph’s Ben Marlow about an interview with Michael:

Having experienced his plain-speaking at first hand, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Even first thing in the morning, Michael speaks like a man on his fourth espresso, or pint — he’s a salt-of-the-earth Aussie, after all.

On that occasion, over croissants and coffee in the West End, he dropped the F-bomb so frequently that even this proud son of Grimsby, a town where the F-word is used like punctuation, may have blushed slightly.

You can almost picture Marlow having to clutch for the smelling salts after his encounter with the uncouth colonial.

There is a certain schadenfreude in Michael’s demise. Plenty in and outside the company had been expecting it since he was appointed in 2017 as a “wartime leader” to shake up the big four accounting firm.

Mission accomplished. He’s certainly shaken things up — but there might need to be a reckoning in the UK corporate world and financial press about stereotyping Australian corporate leaders as foul-mouthed drunken dinosaurs.

That was just some of the old AMP board. He seems to be channeling the John Fraser school of management.

Meanwhile in Japan, the head of the Tokyo Olympics stepped down over sexist remarks he made about women, claiming female board members “talked too much” and made meetings “drag on”.

The fact the culprit was 83-year-old former PM Yoshiro Mori made his demise all the more significant.

But the most shocking scandal of the past week has been in Washington DC with the implosion of the Lincoln Project, the much-hyped political action committee set up by a group of powerful conservatives to bring down Donald Trump.

The group was a media darling during the 2020 election, with its powerful television ads and woke messaging. But now we now learn that behind the scenes the Lincoln Project was almost as offensive and dysfunctional as the Trump White House.

In recent weeks cofounder John Weaver has been accused of allegedly sexually harassing nearly two dozen young men and boys via inappropriate messages and texts.

Any hopes the left wing media would protect the organisation have evaporated as an avalanche of damaging stories has emerged, showing the accusations date back months and are just part of a “toxic” workplace and a pattern of “infighting, sexist language and disparate treatment”.

The Lincoln Project directors have now rushed for the exit, including cofounder Steve Schmidt and George Conway, husband of Trump supporter Kellyanne Conway. There are now questions about what has happened to the US$90 million in funds the group raised.

It’s getting hard to keep up with it all.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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