Growing Your Income

Meet Mazars, the accountancy that keeps finding itself embroiled in controversy

The French accounting firm Mazars Group has turned up in the news quite a bit lately, but it hasn’t been due to its accountants’ reputation as venerable number crunchers. Instead, Mazars has increasingly been known for its controversial clients.

The U.S. arm of the Paris-based Mazars made headlines earlier this year when it dropped Donald Trump, the former U.S. president, and his companies as clients after years of legal battles over his tax returns. Mazars said it could no longer vouch for the reliability of the numbers those tax returns and financial documents contained.

On Friday, the accounting firm said it was parting ways with several cryptocurrency businesses, including Binance, Crypto.com and Kucoin. Again, the firm said it was no longer confident in financial reports it had produced for the companies.

So what is the Mazars Group? 

The low-profile, midsized firm dates back to 1945, when it was founded in Rouen, France, by Robert Mazars, a 20-year-old accountant who wanted to help rebuild his war-ravaged country, small business by small business. He began with a handful of local merchants, providing tax services, and continued as the firm’s chief executive until 1983. 

Since 2016, the group has been helmed by Herve Helias, a 30-year veteran of the firm. 

Mazars now spans the globe, with 44,000 employees bringing in €2.1 billion ($2.23 million) in fees in 2021, up roughly 10% from the year before, according to its annual report.

Nearly 75% of its business remains in Europe, but it has been growing further abroad. It now counts on the Americas for 13% of its business and Asia for 9%. French companies still account for nearly a quarter of its clients.

While it falls some way behind the “Big Four” accounting firms — as Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Deloitte are known — it counts some major companies as clients. Over the years, it has provided accounting services to finance giants like Axa
BNP Paribas
and Goldman Sachs
car company Peugeot and advertising firm Publicis

Mazars had worked for Trump and the Trump Organization for years before Trump became president, and found themselves embroiled in a long-running legal fight with investigators and Congress over producing his tax returns and the company’s statements of financial condition.

Capitol Report (July 2020): Supreme Court rules Trump tax, financial records can be turned over to New York prosecutor, but rejects House Democrats’ bid

The courts ultimately ruled that Trump and Mazars had to hand the accounting reports over. In February, Mazars said it could no longer stand behind its work and parted ways with Trump, saying it couldn’t vouch for the veracity of the numbers it had been provided to produce its reports. In September, Mazars handed documents related to Trump over to Congress.

Mazars had recently produced “proof of reserves” reports for its crypto clients that have sought to detail their abilities to meet customer withdrawals following the collapse of crypto exchange FTX and a number of other crypto businesses. 

But the accounting firm has since removed the reports from its website and said it was pausing its business with the crypto firms because of “the way these reports are understood by the public.”

“Proof of reserves reports are performed in accordance with reporting standards relevant to an agreed upon procedures report. They do not constitute either an assurance or an audit opinion on subject matter. Instead they report limited findings based on the agreed procedures performed on the subject matter at a historical point in time,” Mazars said in a statement.