The UK chairman of KPMG has resigned following a row over comments he made at a meeting on Monday.
Bill Michael had told consultants to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on people’s lives, and to stop “playing the victim card”.
Announcing his resignation, Mr Michael said his position was “untenable”.
He added that he was “truly sorry that my words have caused hurt amongst my colleagues”.
Mr Michael had temporarily stepped aside after KPMG launched an independent investigation into the comments.
He said on Friday: “I love the firm and I am truly sorry that my words have caused hurt amongst my colleagues and for the impact the events of this week have had on them.
“In light of that, I regard my position as untenable and so I have decided to leave the firm.”
The row blew up this week after Mr Michael made the comments in an online meeting with 500 staff members.
Staff had raised concerns over potential pay, pension and bonus cuts.
In a video of the meeting widely circulated online, Mr Michael said: “I have spoken to a lot of partners, and people at all sorts of levels, where it almost feels like this [pandemic] is being done to them. Well, you can’t play the role of victim unless you’re sick. And I hope you’re not sick, and you’re not ill, and if you’re not, take control of your life, don’t sit there and moan about it.”
In another part of the video, Mr Michael also questioned whether unconscious bias training, which tries to get people to challenge any stereotypes they hold without realising, was effective.
“There is no such thing as unconscious bias.” he said. “I don’t buy it, because after every single unconscious bias training that’s ever been done nothing has ever improved. So unless you care, you actually won’t change.”
He later apologised for the comments, saying his words did not reflect his beliefs.
While at KPMG Mr Michael “championed the debate about bank culture and standards and the need for change in the industry,” according to a KPMG biography.
He was also special adviser to the UK’s Treasury Select Committee into Banking Standards.
When Mr Michael stepped aside pending the investigation into his comments KPMG appointed its first female leaders in 150 years.
Bina Mehta stepped in as acting chairman and Mary O’Connor took over Mr Michael’s day-to-day executive responsibilities as acting senior partner.
Ms Mehta said on Friday: “Bill has made a huge contribution to our firm over the last 30 years, especially over the last three years as chairman, and we wish him all the best for the future.”
Mr Michael will leave the business at the end of the month after a handover period.