KPMG Meijburg pays millions to former partner Aerts by way of severance package

de Volkskrant
Wednesday May 17th 2017

The prestigious tax law firm KMPG Meijburg has to pay top tax lawyer and former partner Ad Aerts a severance package of a few million euro. This is the recent ruling of an arbitration tribunal in the dispute between the former partner and the office, sources at the top of KPMG Meijburg confirm.

The exact amount of the payment is not known because the ruling is confidential. It is the umpteenth painful moment for KPMG Meijburg in the affair at the top of the office. Aerts has confirmed that he received a severance package and was “satisfied” with the ruling, but that he could not comment on the case because of “the secrecy agreed with KPMG”.

KPMG Meijburg is also happy with the arbitration tribunal’s ruling, according a spokesman. “The parties cannot comment in detail on the content of the arrangements. KPMG Meijburg is completely happy with the outcome of the arbitration. The company regards the ruling as a victory.” The spokesman denied that millions had been paid, but spoke of “a few hundred thousand”.

The issue concerns a dispute in 2015 between former member of the board Wiebe Cnossen of het prestigious tax law firm KPMG Meijburg and his fellow tax advisors Ad Aerts and Karim Aachboun. Aachboun had joined the firm in 2008 and was Aerts’ protégé. The young tax advisor quickly made a career for himself, recruited many wealthy clients and worked with large companies such as Louis Vuitton and KLM. Aerts and Aachboun also played an important role in helping the Israeli chemical company ICL move its headquarters to the Netherlands, which generated hundreds of jobs.

However, 24 March 2015 saw the start of a major conflict. Aerts gave a speech in front of a dozen colleagues in which he praised Aachboun for his achievements. Board member Cnossen had a totally different opinion of Aachboun and his prospects at the firm. Indeed, he intended to give the young tax advisor a poor performance review. After the speech, he charged with clenched fists into Aerts’ office, where Aachboun was also present. “Piss off, Karim, piss off”, he yelled.

The incident caused a conflict at the normally secretive and discrete office, which was described in detail in De Telegraaf in particular. The paper wrote that Cnossen could not stand a “foreigner” such as Aachboun being successful at the firm. The conflict eventually led to the dismissal of Aerts and Aachboun, but not without considerable damage to KPMG Meijburg.

In April 2016, the subdistrict court awarded Aachboun EUR 75,000 in damages. The court also levelled severe criticism at KPMG because of Cnossen’s “blunt behaviour” and the fact that the firm failed to confront the board about his behaviour and apology was made afterwards. The court spoke of “seriously culpable” actions. Aachboun appealed against the decision and subsequently settled with his former employer for a reported amount of nearly EUR 1 million.


After the arbitration tribunal’s ruling, Aerts also ended the relationship with his former employer. However, for him the case is not over yet. He has brought what is known as “Article 12 proceedings” against KPMG at the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam. Aerts pressed charges against his former colleagues, including Chairman of the Board Wilbert Kannekens, for influencing him as a witness. Aerts claims that the board of the firm instructed him on how he should testify in the case of the young tax advisor Aachboun, if his testimony was required.

Early this year, the Public Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute the board of the firm. Through the Article 12 proceedings, Aerts hopes to enforce a prosecution after all.

Aachboun, who by now has started his own business, is delighted with the ruling of the arbitration tribunal. “Again, justice has prevailed, after the Amsterdam Subdistrict Court already ruled that KPMG Meijburg had acted ‘in a seriously culpable manner’ towards me. This is another confirmation that my former colleague and Board Chairman Wilbert Kannekens was in the wrong. I therefore advise him to resign as Chairman with immediate effect.”