PwC manager sues firm over 'pub golf' brain injuries

24 August 2022 3 min. read
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PwC has found itself at the centre of a lawsuit in the UK, after an employee alleged his employer pressured him and other staff to participate in binge drinking. Accountant Michael Brockie is demanding compensation from the Big Four firm, after one pub crawl it organised left him with ‘health problems’.

The world’s largest audit and advisory firms are currently working to improve their internal behaviour and cultures, amid a slew of scandals. In 2021, a partner at EY resigned after being fined by a professional body for sexually harassing a female trainee on a work ski trip, a case that resembled other occurrences which had rocked PwC in 2018, and KPMG’s Dutch firm in 2016.

As a result, many professional firms have taken steps to reduce the risk of alcohol-fuelled incidents at work events, such as banning ski trips and designating “sober chaperones” for field trips.

Now, PwC has found itself at the heart of another scandal involving heavy drinking. This time, the firm is facing demands for compensation due to the consequences of pub crawl that left an employee with brain injuries.

Michael Brockie, who is still employed by PwC, claims that employees were under severe pressure to participate in binge drinking, at a 2019 event led by the manager of the PwC office in Reading. According to Brockie, the manager had invited employees with the announcement that staying away from the outing was only possible after submitting a doctor's certificate.

The intent of the so-called 'pub golf pub crawl' event was for participants to go to visit bars and nightclubs, to drink. In a drinking game that many graduates will be familiar with, the participants were handed out score cards, on to which they were to record how many attempts it took them to down glasses of drink. Legal documents reported on by the Financial Times stated that Brockie did not remember anything after 10pm from that night, and he was later found unconscious on the street.

When news broadcasters from ITV reported on Brockie’s injuries in early 2020, they suggested the PwC staffer had fractured his skull, having fallen on his head during the pub crawl. After Brockie was operated on at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, he started a £15,000 fund-raising campaign for the hospital. Staff there said at the time that it had been unclear whether he would survive – having had half of his skull removed during initial treatment – and called him a “walking miracle”.

According to Brockie, the incident left him with brain damage. He was unable to work at all for six months afterwards, while three years on, he claims he still has problems concentrating and doing his job. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was promoted to Manager in PwC’s Reading office in early 2022.

The Financial Times also reported he is claiming preliminary damages of £200,000 from PwC – where partners earned an average of £1 million last year – pending a future, final settlement for compensation. It is not yet known when the case will go to the High Court.