BharatPe official logo
Courtesy: BharatPe

BharatPe onboards PwC alongside Alvarez for governance review

The inquiry into alleged financial irregularities at BharatPe intensified on Monday as the fintech startup prepared to appoint accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to investigate the company’s transactions. Previously, Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) audited the company’s financials, while PwC is meant to accompany the external auditors; nevertheless, the degree of its involvement remains unknown.

BharatPe official logo
Courtesy: BharatPe

Deloitte was BharatPe’s statutory auditor, according to a Mint report, and is likely to be questioned about how it overlooked the alleged financial irregularities. BharatPe appointed A&M, a risk consulting firm, to perform an independent investigation of the startup’s internal processes and systems. It was a follow-up to cofounder Ashneer Grover and his wife Madhuri Grover’s voluntary leave of absence from the company in the aftermath of multiple controversies.

The board has also been chastised for failing to act despite red flags in BharatPe’s corporate governance. Earlier it was reported, that Grover approached law firm Karanjawala & Co. to protect his stake in the case that he is ousted from the company. Grover’s issues with BharatPe surfaced when an audio clip of Grover allegedly threatening and verbally abusing a Kotak Mahindra Bank official over the phone got viral.

Grover can be heard in the viral audio clip screaming ‘encounter’ threats and abusing a Kotak Mahindra official — which he said was a fake in an attempt to destroy his reputation. Grover and his wife were interacting with the relationship manager in the audio clip because they were not allocated shares during Nykaa’s IPO. In the alleged audio clip, the bank employee was trying to calm the unicorn founder.

While Grover was pushed to take a leave of absence until the end of March due to a negative response over his abusive language to a Kotak employee and the toxic culture at BharatPe, his wife’s absence indicated major concerns with governance at BharatPe.

The board has been reviewing issues such as possible over-inflated invoices and fake vendors, according to a person closely involved in the matter who did not want to be identified. This person also mentioned that when a merchant recorded a transaction, BharatPe may have manipulated the value of these transactions.

Since BharatPe had a revenue of Rs 110 crore in fiscal 2020, it was not needed to appoint an internal auditor. The revenue during the fiscal year 2021 was Rs 700 crore. Internal auditors who report to the company audit head are only needed when the company’s revenue exceeds Rs 200 crore in the previous fiscal year, according to the Companies Act 2013.