EXCLUSIVE: Listen to the extraordinary leaked speech by Ernst and Young boss after his female worker plunged to her death from the 11th floor of the company’s office – and why it’s left staff FUMING
- CEO of Ernst & Young Australia addressed death of staff member in town hall
- David Larocca said the company would take zero-tolerance approach to bullying
- He said the firm would take ethical approach to reporting ‘self-harm incidents’
- EY has decided not to temporarily close terrace where employee fell to her death
- Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, is survived by new husband, family and friends
- The EY senior auditor fell to her death from 11th floor roof of the office building
- For confidential 24-hour support in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Do you know more? Email [email protected]
Ernst and Young workers are fuming at the company after the suicide death of a talented young staffer – and they’ve taken the extraordinary step of leaking the CEO’s speech as he attempted to justify his response to the tragedy.
Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, an Indian national, died when she plunged from a terrace on the roof of EY’s 11th floor in Sydney at about 12.20am on August 27, after returning to the office following a work function at the nearby Ivy nightclub.
Allegations of bullying and racism have since plagued the company.
In a town hall meeting to 9,000 staff on Tuesday, EY boss David Larocca spent just four minutes of the hour-long address on the death of Ms Venkatachalam, who was a senior auditor.
In his address, in which he didn’t use her name, he said the company was considering taking ‘regulatory’ action against the media for reporting on the lead up and aftermath of Ms Venkatachalam’s death.
Staff at the firm described the meeting – held on level 35 of the EY building and streamed online – as ‘entitled’, ‘indulgent’ and displaying a ‘tin ear’ to the trauma suffered by staff. One staffer was shocked he refused to use her name.
Daily Mail Australia has exclusively revealed how Aishwarya Venkatachalam (pictured here with her husband Nakul) complained to her best friend about ‘racism’ and ‘mean’ colleagues at the financial services company before her tragic death
Ms Venkatachalam’s death has rocked the finance world, with staff at the company slamming the business’s leadership for their ‘insensitive’ approach to her death.
Her decision to take her own life has also shone the spotlight on work life inside EY, which some ex-employees describing the culture as a ‘meat grinder’ of long hours and high pressure.
In the recording of the meeting obtained by Daily Mail Australia, CEO Mr Larocca told staff he was ‘deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic death of one our Sydney assurance team members last week’.
EY has promised a ‘comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review that will include health and safety, security and social events’ led by their chief mental health advisor in the wake of the tragedy (pictured, an EY careers event in Australia)
‘We had a really difficult week, made even more distressing for many by the reporting in the press,’ he said.
‘Our entire focus has been on supporting everyone impacted by this starting with her family, everyone at EY that’s been directly impacted, and our broader EY community.’
The chief executive went on to say that ‘unlike the media’, the company would take an ‘ethical approach’ to the reporting of public deaths.
‘And we are I can let you know, we are considering avenues around this through regulatory bodies, around the media,’ Mr Larocca said.
Daily Mail Australia on Tuesday revealed that Ms Venkatachalam had complained of racism and ‘mean colleagues’ to a close friend, Neeti Bisht, in April.
Bosses at Ernst and Young have launched a major investigation into claims Aishwarya Venkatachalum (pictured on her wedding day with husband, Nakul) died after she was bullied at work and was a victim of racism
Mr Larocca addressed those claims in his speech, insisting the firm had ‘a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and racism’.
Daily Mail Australia understands the 120 staff present on level 35 and the thousands watching the web cast were urged to reach out to EY’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or their Executive Leadership Team if they were struggling to process the tragedy.
‘More broadly, every day, I’ve seen and been part of conversations where people have really cared for each other, looked out for each other,’ Mr Larocca said.
‘I ask you to continue to do that, I know you all, in your own way have done your little bit. So please continue to do that.’
Neeti Bisht (left) is pictured with her close friend Ms Venkatachalam during her trip to Sydney in April this year – the last time they saw each other in person
After spending just a few minutes acknowledging Ms Venkatachalam’s tragic death, the CEO flagged that for R U Ok Day, a national initiative spearheaded by a suicide prevention charity, EY’s theme would be ‘connection’.
Jono Nicholas, the firm’s chief mental health advisor, encouraged employees to think of a mental health ritual they could use in the coming weeks.
‘Sometimes it’s just sitting down watching telly and just having a break from it all and that’s okay, as well,’ he said.
‘We are all part of the EY community, for those that are able to feel comfortable to come into an EY office, be with your colleagues to connect throughout the day, whether it be online, or pick up the phone,’ he said.
However, the company’s attempts to address the tragedy seem to have backfired with many employees having contacted Daily Mail Australia following the address.
Staff said they were ‘creeped out’ by EY’s decision to keep open the balcony where their colleague fell to her death just weeks earlier.
One senior employee, who declined to be named for fear of punishment by the company, said the level of insensitivity shown by the leadership team ‘beggars belief’.
Audio has emerged of the CEO of Ernst & Young attacking the media for accurately reporting the death of an employee who fell from a balcony at its Sydney headquarters (pictured)
Pictured: Aishwarya Ventkat and husband Nakul Ganesan on their second day of wedding celebrations during a Vratham function in January, 2021
‘They are hiding behind some idea that they are respecting the family by proceeding with business as usual, but that rings hollow,’ the employee said.
‘An epic failure of leadership has left many staff utterly dejected, and just confirms that if any of us happen to die, absolutely nothing changes, not a beat is skipped.’
‘In a publicly listed company it would be hard to imagine such a lack of accountability for how this has been handled,’ they said.
The EY employee slammed the firm’s deputy CEO Jenelle McMaster as ‘entitled’ and ‘indulgent’ for partaking in a mock interview during the hour-long town hall meeting.
‘To really underscore just how swept up in their own world they are, they put on a town hall where we had to listen to the Deputy CEO indulge herself in a mock interview talking about herself,’ the staffer said.
‘Can you even believe it … The indulgence and entitlement and tin ear is just mind blowing.’
AISHWARYA’S TRAGIC TIMELINE OF EVENTS
2015: Graduates from Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune, India
2019: Joins Grant Thornton LLP in Bengaluru, India, as an Audit Senior
January 2021: Marries husband Nakul in Chennai, India
November 2021: Joins EY in Sydney as a Senior Auditor
August 26, 2022: Confusion remains over Aishwarya’s final movements.
Conflicting reports say she left her office at either midday, 5.30pm or 7.30pm to join the EY social club drinks function at The Ivy nightclub.
CCTV is said to show her returning to the office at about 7.30pm. She is said to have been seen moving between offices in the EY building.
At 8pm she spoke on the phone to her husband in Singapore before he got on a flight back to Sydney.
Several hours later, she is found allegedly drunk and distraught in a city centre car park just before midnight.
She claims to have been kicked out of a work function and is unable to access her office to get her house key. Bystanders help back to her EY office building.
August 27, 2022: At about 12.20am she falls to her death from the terrace on the roof of the 10th floor.
Later that day, her husband returns to Sydney from a trip to Singapore to be told of the tragedy.
Mr Larocca said EY’s independent review into Ms Venkatachalam’s death would reveal what the company ‘could learn’ from the tragedy.
‘We’re still refining the scope, but it will look at security and safety of our premises, how we work, including how we connect at social functions, and the mental health and wellbeing supports that we have at EY,’ he said.
It comes after close friend Neeti Bisht revealed Ms Venkatachalam, a bridesmaid at her wedding, had struggled to fit in since moving to Australia 11 months ago as a senior EY auditor in real estate assurance.
‘She was a happy soul and was finding her feet in Australia … She mentioned how mean some of her colleagues were,’ Ms Bisht told Daily Mail Australia.
Pictured: Chief Executive of Ernst & Young Oceania David Larocca
Ms Bisht said Ms Venkatachalam told her she was dealing with bullying and racism at work, but she was otherwise thriving in Australia.
‘I think things had just started to brew then… Her colleagues and the racist angle was at play,’ she said.
A spokeswoman has previously told Daily Mail Australia the company ‘has a zero tolerance response to bullying, harassment and racism, and we take any allegations that relate to these issues very seriously.
‘The review we launched last week following this tragedy is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further until it is complete,’ she said.
‘We are continuing to offer all our people counselling and support.’
There is no suggestion EY, or the woman’s co-workers or superiors, were in any way responsible for her death.
For confidential 24-hour support in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
READ ERNST & YOUNG CEO DAVID LAROCCA’S FULL ADDRESS HERE:
I want to start by acknowledging the deeply sad incident here in Sydney.
I know all of you are deeply shocked and saddened. I’m deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic death of one of our Sydney assurance team members last week.
We had a really difficult week, made even more distressing for many by the reporting in the press.
Our entire focus, entire focus, has been on supporting everyone impacted by this starting with her family, everyone at EY that’s been directly impacted, and our broader EY community.
And as Andrew said, we continue to support everyone through various mechanisms, including EAP. So please do reach out, if you’re one of those people.
Some of you may also have read the name of the individual in the media and at the family’s request, we’ve been working to maintain space and privacy so this is why we aren’t mentioning her name, we’re really taking guidance from her family. So I wanted to make sure you all knew that as well.
We’ve also received feedback and questions on why haven’t we explained what happened. And again, we’re being respectful of our colleagues family. And we’ll also have a police investigation that’s still underway.
So I know this makes things uncomfortable. But I’m explaining why. And I hope you will understand that and respect that.
We continue to work closely with the police on the investigation, and we’re doing everything possible to support our team members who have been involved in the police investigations and that will also continue.
On the media, we are taking an ethical approach. Others aren’t, we are, particularly around reporting of self harm incidents. And we are, I can let you know, we are considering avenues around this through regulatory bodies, around the media. So I want you to know that we’re doing that too.
And the more recent allegations in the media, I just want to say that we have zero tolerance for bullying, harassment, and racism.
And I hope I don’t need to say that, because I hope you all know that. But I wanted to make sure that you all heard that for me as well.
More broadly, every day, I’ve seen and been part of conversations where people have really cared for each other, looked out for each other.
I ask you to continue to do that. I know you all, in your own way have done your little bit. So please continue to do that.
And as you heard from me last week, I’ve announced a comprehensive and wide ranging, independent review, which will be forward looking, around what can we learn from what’s happened.
So we’re still refining the scope, but it will look at security and safety of our premises, how we work, including how we connect at social functions, and the mental health and wellbeing supports that we have at EY.
And I want to assure you, as I said last week that we will work diligently, carefully, but at speed. And we’ll let you know. We’ll be transparent on the outcomes as soon as we can.
And we’ll do that as and when things are moved as well we’ll wait for the end, and we’ll be supported every step of the way.
As we have been through this process by Jono, who will join me in a second, I will provide many opportunities for all of you, all of our people to contribute. And we’ll share the findings and actions as I said, as we work through the process.
I know these can be distressing times. And if you or any of your teams need support, please again, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, to the ELT (Executive Leadership Team) to your leaders, and directly to the EAP (Employee Assistance Program).
And as I said last week, I’ve really had to draw on supports in the past week, particularly my family, members of the ELT, Jono, so we encourage you all to do the same.
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