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Thought Leaders Global Elite - Forensic Accountants 2021
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Peers and clients say

"He handles complex arbitrations and has particular strength in post-acquisition disputes"
"Jean-Luc has a strong reputation"
"He is absolutely excellent"

Questions & Answers

Jean-Luc Guitera has been with KPMG for 33 years, and heads both the KPMG forensic team in Paris and KPMG’s EMA dispute advisory services. Mr Guitera has been involved in 38 international arbitration and has given oral evidence 25 times, in French or English. He has acted as an independent expert appointed by both parties to determine the final transaction price in 19 M&A transactions. He also has extensive experience of fraud investigations having led more than 100 investigations in 20 countries.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a forensic expert?

I was a transaction service partner doing regular M&A work and the dispute side of the M&A work appeared to be more fun and exciting, so I created a dispute advisory department in KPMG Paris.

What has been your most interesting arbitration case to date and why?

A recent major arbitration case related to a warranty claim. 

It happens that one of my main areas of specialisation is mergers and acquisition disputes, and one of the great things about being a forensic partner in a “Big Four” accounting firm is that you are often the independent accountant selected to resolve purchase price disputes, and you often lead major accounting fraud investigations (blue chip companies’ audit committees want major firms to perform such investigations as they may warrant the press’s attention), which are very similar in nature to accounting warranty claims.

The warranty was quite a classic one (the accounts give a true and fair view and comply with the international accounting standards, ie, IFRS), and the share purchase agreement included a provision according to which in case of a fraud, the limitations on the warranties and damages were no longer applicable.

The issue at stake was (i) whether the accounts did or did not give a true and fair view of the company’s financial situation, which entailed analysing a number of proposed adjustments to the accounts to identify if they were justified under IFRS and whether, taken as a whole, the sum of accepted adjustments was such that the accounts were misleading, and (ii) whether there was an intentional error as defined under standard IAS 8.

Those are in fact very complicated issues as there are a number of considerations to take into account, and to have prima facie experience of dealing with such issues in the past is, in my view, critical for one’s credibility as an expert witness in this type of warranty claim.

What are the main challenges of having such a global practice?

Lost opportunities due to conflict of interests.

In what ways is digitisation impacting international arbitration? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of these new technologies? 

To a large extent, digitalisation is a game-changer for international arbitration. The warranty claim arbitration I was referring to above was performed remotely. The hearing lasted four weeks and was successfully carried out. 

How does your practice distinguish itself from the competition?

We have taken a different approach compared to the expert witness boutiques that comprise of the major portion of the competition, as we are convinced that doing real-world work increases your usefulness for the tribunal when acting as an expert witness.

While the managing directors in these boutiques tend to specialise in doing only expert witness work, at KPMG in Paris we are keen to continue having a sizable portion of our activity in non-expert witness work. 

For me, this means performing work on ongoing M&A transactions throughout their life-cycle, from reading and commenting on the accounting-related provisions of the share purchase agreement, to assisting in the preparation or review of the closing accounts when there is a purchase price adjustment (or of the leakages in a locked-box transaction), to assisting our clients in front of the independent expert, to being the independent expert when we were not involved in the transaction, to finally being expert witness if an arbitration follows. I even once had the opportunity to be a member of an arbitral tribunal dealing with a warranty claim. 

This also means performing investigations for corporate clients and for lawyers when fraud allegations need to be refuted or confirmed. This is the reason why I also happen to be in the global elite thought leader category of your sister publication, Global Investigations Review, in 2020.

How do you coordinate on cases when working alongside experts with other areas of expertise?

I use their technical expertise for the determination of technical assumptions that are needed for my work.

What advice would you give to someone starting out a career as an arbitration expert witness?

To start working in a real world-based activity such as audit or transaction services, before moving on to expert witness work.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished? 

To act as expert witness in my other area of expertise, orders and medals.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Peers and clients say

"He handles complex arbitrations and has particular strength in post-acquisition disputes"
"Jean-Luc has a strong reputation"
"He is absolutely excellent"

Biography

Jean-Luc Guitera heads the KPMG forensic team in Paris. He is also head of KPMG’s dispute advisory service for the EMA region and is in charge of the relations with the Paris-based law firms and general counsels.

He has 32 years of experience with KPMG, having been an auditor before specialising first in transaction services (M&A) and then since 2003, in forensic (fraud investigations, M&A and commercial disputes, international arbitration).

In a transaction advisory role, Mr Guitera has been involved in more than 40 engagements and has also acted as independent expert appointed by both parties to determine the final transaction price in M&A operations in 19 transactions. He has been involved in more than 60 valuations of all types acting as auditor, transaction services partner leading a due diligence team, court or tribunal-appointed-expert (arbitral tribunals, Monaco appellate court), expert witness (arbitral tribunals and French state courts) and member of an arbitral tribunal and independent expert.

As a financial expert, Mr Guitera has been involved nearly 40 international arbitration and has given oral evidence more than 20 times, in French or English, acting as expert for claimants and respondents alike, and as a tribunal-appointed expert in New-York, London, Geneva, Brussels, Beijing, the Cayman Islands and Bucarest under ICC, CIRDI, UNCITRAL, OHADA and ad hoc arbitration rules. His industry experience covers, among others, the aerospace and defence, telecommunications and construction. He also has experience in the financial assessment of complex industrial contracts.

As a forensic accountant, he has led more than 100 engagements in France and in over 20 countries across all continents. He has investigated accounting and reporting frauds, misappropriation of assets and corruption matters, and has been involved in US sanctions and FCPA-related investigation.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

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