“Big Four” Audit Oligopoly Expands Global Reach Further

But in some jurisdictions, they’re under-fire after a series of sudden corporate collapses.

By Don Quijones, Spain, UK, & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.

The “Big Four” audit and accountancy giants — KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) — have found themselves in the rare position of being on the back foot in a number of key global markets, in particular the UK where the government and regulators are considering breaking up the oligopolistic hold they have on the audit industry after a series of collapses of their audit clients. But that hasn’t stopped the four sprawling giants from exploring new avenues for expansion.

One of those areas is the global legal services market, estimated to be worth some $600 billion. Deloitte recently begun to offer legal services through a new foreign law practice, all in the name of providing an even more holistic service to its clients. Deloitte is following in the footsteps of rival Big Four firms EY and PwC, who also recently expanded their legal services offerings.

Traditional legal services firms are understandably wary of the development. The Big Four will be “very, very serious players” in the market, says Nick Davis, the managing partner of City law firm Memery Crystal. “[They] will have a very large impact on the mid market” he said.

As always, acquisitions will play a key role in the Big Four’s new growth strategy. This week, EY announced that it had acquired tech-centric alternative legal provider Riverside Law – a move that is widely seen as a shot across the bow of the traditional legal market. EY’s global legal leader Cornelius Grossmann confirmed as much, saying the firm has a plan “to aggressively grow the legal business” over the next five years…

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