As WPP prepares to take the biggest step yet in its restructuring process with the sale of a majority stake in its Kantar market research business, it is also taking a stand on a potential conflict of interest at a major auditor.

According to Digiday, WPP will next year end any participation in media pitches where Accenture is the auditor comparing agency prices against the quality of media bought or assessing the media rates paid by agencies.

“It’s due to Accenture Interactive acting as both an auditor and a media agency of sorts with its pitch to help advertisers take their ad tech in-house,” explained an anonymous executive who works closely with GroupM, WPP’s media buying division.

While the consulting firm has internal barriers in place between the agency and auditing arms of its business, WPP appears unconvinced of their effectiveness and it’s possible other holding groups could feel the same way.

Further pressure on Accenture came from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, whose director general Paul Bainsfair told Digiday, “In an era where transparency is under the spotlight, this self-evident conflict of interest is unacceptable.

“As well as compromising impartiality, no business can legitimately offer competing media services to a market where it has a media auditor’s access to confidential client and agency media data and financial information,” he said.

But some observers questioned whether WPP’s clients would share these concerns and pointed out there are potential conflicts of interest in many areas across the marketing and media industry.

Meanwhile, WPP has confirmed it is in exclusive talks with Bain Capital about the sale of a majority stake in Kantar as it seeks to simplify its structure and reduce its debt load.

The market research business recently rebranded all its constituent parts – TNS, Millward Brown, Lightspeed, Worldpanel, IMRB – under the Kantar name, a step unrelated to the sale, according to CEO Eric Salama.

“We rebranded everything with a Kantar prefix three years ago and this was a natural next step to make ourselves simpler for clients and partners to deal with [and] to increase the impact of our digital presence,” he told Research World last month.

This week, WPP also confirmed the sale of its 25% stake in sports-marketing agency Chime Communications.

Sourced from Digiday, Bloomberg, Research World; additional content by WARC staff