Almost a year after it was rattled by the Satyam scam, auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on Monday announced a sudden change of leadership of India operations as its chairman Ramesh Rajan stepped down prematurely to make way for Gautam Banerjee, who takes over from Singapore with immediate effect.

Rajan, who was at the helm of affairs when the Satyam scam broke early this year, had about one-and-a-half years remaining of his four year tenure as the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers India network of entities (PwC India). When contacted, he refused to divulge exact reasons behind his sudden exit, and said he wanted time to look at other things within the firm and allow someone else to take charge of the operations.

Indian operations of the auditing firm has been in the dock for its alleged role in Satyam scam that broke early this year after Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju confessed to cooking the companies books on January 7, 2009. Rajan, who has been at the helm of PwC India since 2007, was also summoned by the CBI to Hyderabad for questioning after the Satyam scam broke. Already two senior PwC partners S Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Talluri, who were statutory auditors for Satyam, are cooling their heels in jail for their alleged involvement in the Satyam scam.

Apart from the CBI, PwCs alleged role in the Satyam scam is also being probed by US SEC. PWC is also facing investor suits in the US, where Satyam is listed on NYSE. PwC India said in a statement, after leading PwC India through a challenging year, Rajan has decided it is time to allow others to lead, as it continues to address the various enquiries concerning Satyam. The other members of the PwC India leadership team continue in their roles.

Officials at PwC India, however, could not explain why no elections were held for the post of the chairman, as is the normal practice. We do not want the partners to be distracted from the market. It would be better that the partners focus on clients, a senior official said.

Banerjee has been a partner with PricewaterhouseCoop ers , Singapore, for 20 years and has served as executive chairman of PwC Singapore for the last six years. In April, he was appointed to the PwC India Advisory Board that had been formed after Satyam scam to advice on how the organisation could meet the expectations of its external stakeholders.

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