US – The US arm of pension consulting firm Watson Wyatt has postponed its fourth-quarter earnings report after disclosing “billing irregularities”.

Washington-based Watson Wyatt & Co Holding said it postponed its fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2003 results to the end of September following the discovery of “certain billing irregularities”. The results were due today.

“Management has reported this issue to the audit committee of the board of directors and has enlisted the assistance of its legal counsel and independent accountants to conduct a review of this issue so that the company can take appropriate remedial action,” it said.

It added that the irregularities involved less than two million dollars “and affect fewer than five clients”.

A Watson Wyatt spokesman in Europe, Bruce Wraight, said the problems do not affect the European business or clients directly though he was unable to provide any more details about the nature of the irregularities. He pointed out that Watson Wyatt Co. is a separate legal entity from the European operation, Watson Wyatt LLP.

"These billing irregularities, although immaterial to our financial statements, reflect unacceptable business practices which we will not tolerate in our company,” said president and chief executive John Haley.

The firm added that it still expects 2003 revenues to be around one percent lower than the 710.5 million dollars it reported in fiscal 2002.