KPMG Auditor Tells of Hollinger's Firing Over Payments

24 April 2007

CHICAGO: The Conrad Black trial resumed Monday with Marilyn Stitt, Hollinger International's former auditor, taking the stand to testify against His Lordship and three co-defendants, former colleagues John Boultbee, Mark Kipnis and Peter Atkinson.

Stitt told the court that her firm, KPMG Canada, resigned the H-Intl business in late 2003. She was questioned as to its probing of the purported non-compete payments to top H-Intl executives - and if the audit firm was satisfied they had been approved by the company's board of directors?

She said several questions arose at that time - among them the issue of board approval of specific amounts paid to the defendants. Pressed by prosecutor Julie Ruder over these payments, Stitt said they had not been disclosed to KPMG.

She was also asked how the audit firm regarded the payments? Stitt replied: "First of all, it would call into question management's integrity. (It also raised) the question whether the audit committee was informed completely."

She told the court of a meeting with H-Intl's audit committee in February 2002 at which it was asked by a KPMG auditor whether it had approved non-compete payments from 2000. That question, said Stitt, was followed by a long pause.

"I took their silence to mean they had considered (the payments) and that they had previously been approved," Stitt said. Whether the payments had been approved or not, KPMG wanted the board to clarify the exact amounts - which it ultimately did.

The trial continues . . . and is likely to do so for several more weeks.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff